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MONEY, Miss. -- The murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 shocked a nation and galvanized the civil rights movement, yet the memory of the racial killing wasn't always kept alive in the place where he died.

This Mississippi Delta community kept its infamous history quiet long after the trial of two white men, who later admitted to the killing, had been inserted into textbooks.

"We didn't learn anything about Emmett Till in school," recalled Katie Washington, whose mobile home is not far from the vine-covered remains of the county store where Till, a visitor from Chicago, whistled at a white woman, setting into motion the murder.

Washington, 30, first heard of the civil rights killing a few years ago when the case again attracted national attention, including on Oprah Winfrey's television talk show.

"The first time I heard about Emmett was when Oprah came here about five years ago and did a special," said Washington, who is black.

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced plans to reopen the Till investigation. A black Mississippi district attorney will take the lead in the case.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who was a young child when Till was slain, said he didn't think federal prosecutors would reopen the case "unless they thought it would be good and useful to do that."

"It's a two-edged sword," Barbour said of the decision. "I think people want justice to be done and appreciate the effort. It reopens some old wounds, but that's not always counterproductive to reconciliation."

On Aug. 28, 1955, Till was pulled from his uncle's home after the teenager reportedly whistled at the wife of Roy Bryant outside the old store. Till was taken to nearby Tallahatchie County and beaten.

His body was discovered three days later in the Tallahatchie River -- eye detached, ear missing. Till's body was rendered unrecognizable, except for a ring on his hand.

The discovery of the body led to the arrests of Bryant and J.W. Milam, who admitted they had kidnapped Till but said they had released him unharmed.

An all-white, all-male jury in Sumner acquitted Bryant and Milam of the charge on Sept. 23, 1955. The two, now deceased, confessed to the killing months later in Look magazine.

"Even white people were heartbroken and disgusted by what happened. They stopped shopping at that store and the family was forced to leave town," said Anna Hill, a black 64-year-old who lives in Money.

Bill Minor, of Jackson, a veteran Mississippi journalist who covered the trial, said he was amazed the case was being reopened after so many years.

Recalling the 1955 trial of Bryant and Milam, Minor said he sat in the courtroom near the flimsy wooden jury room door and heard laughter inside the jury room.

"My impression was they waited the hour and five minutes before returning with their verdict to make it look like they were halfway serious," he said.

Robert McGee, a black businessman now in his early 50s, said he was in high school when Mississippi schools desegregated in the 1960s and recalled the Till case was not something people in the community discussed.

"After Emmett was murdered, people didn't want to talk about it, not blacks and not whites," McGee said last week in Money. "It was a secret but it was also a way everyone got along with each other out in this rural area. You had to deal with each other."

Harry Tribble, a Delta catfish farmer and the son of the foreman of the Till jury, now owns the old store and wants to restore it as a civil rights museum.

"My husband was only 2 years old when his father was on the jury and his family never wanted to discuss it," Adrian Tribble said of her husband, Harry. "It was a secret. No one wanted to remember it. My husband studied the civil rights era on his own."

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