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Mississippi Goddamn


Mississippi continues to impress its inability to even decently deal with its past.

When it was notified this week that another sign commemorating Emmett Till had disappeared, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center had every reason to be worried.

Since 2008, when placards identifying places of significance in the brutal killing of 14-year-old Emmett were first installed around the Mississippi Delta, several signs have been vandalized: blotted out with acid, shot at, left in the same river where the boy’s body was pulled from the water in August 1955.

On Thursday, the center announced on Twitter that the historical marker in front of the site of the former Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market in Money, Miss. — where Emmett went to buy candy and was later accused of flirting with the white shopkeeper, eventually leading to his lynching by two white men — was gone.

But Allan Hammons, whose public relations firm made the marker for the Mississippi Freedom Trail, which was created in 2011 to commemorate the people and places in the state that played a pivotal role in the American civil rights movement, said that he suspected no foul play.

On Tuesday, shortly after Mr. Hammons received a call saying that the sign was “missing or damaged,” a colleague visited the site and saw the marker lying on the ground, Mr. Hammons recalled in a phone interview on Saturday. He then asked the Leflore County Road and Bridge Department to retrieve and store the sign until he could evaluate if it needed to be repaired or replaced. When Mr. Hammons surveyed the site after the placard had been picked up, he saw large tire tracks that he said could have belonged to a “utility type truck.”

His guess is that a truck driver may have inadvertently backed into the post, perhaps without even realizing it.

“Oftentimes this happens,” Mr. Hammons said, estimating that his firm loses five to six historical markers each summer to human error. Mr. Hammons added that he had no way to know if this instance was intentional or accidental.

But the Emmett Till Interpretive Center is reluctant to write off the incident as an accident, given the history of vandalism of signs memorializing the boy’s death.

Maybe it is an accident. But that sign has been vandalized so many times, why believe it was an accident?

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