Bryant Grocery, located in the small town of Money, Mississippi, can rightfully be considered the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till arrived in Money, Mississippi on August 21, 1955, staying with his great uncle Moses Wright and several cousins. On August 24, Emmett and Curtis skipped church and visited Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market, one of the few stores in Money. Bryant’s Grocery was owned by a white couple, 24-year-old Roy Bryant and his wife Carolyn. The Grocery catered to the local black sharecropper population.
Emmett entered the store and went to the counter, where he wanted to buy some candy. Roy Bryant’s wife Carolyn was behind the counter, alone. Her husband Roy was out of town. The following events are heavily disputed. Carolyn Bryant alleged that Emmett wolf-whistled her, grabbed her hand, and asked for a date. When Carolyn refused, Emmett allegedly grabbed her by the waist and made sexual advances. Emmett’s cousin Simeon Wright, who entered the store shortly after Emmett, denied this, saying both he and Emmett left the store without incident. Anonymous bystanders agreed with Emmett and Simeon’s recollections. It is possible that Emmett didn’t even wolf-whistle, and instead simply stuttered while asking for the candy. Either way, an offended Carolyn ran out of the store and grabbed a pistol, but by this time Emmett and his cousins had left the store.
News of the encounter between Emmett and Carolyn spread quickly throughout the small town, and Emmett’s cousins were worried that there might be violence. Unfortunately, they did not tell Moses Wright about the incident, and Wright may have been able to save Emmett before it was too late.
On August 27, Roy Bryant returned to Money, and became furious when his wife explained what had happened. Roy and his half-brother, John “J.W.” Milam, began questioning and terrorizing local African Americans, until they discovered the name and whereabouts of Emmett Till. In the early hours of August 28, 1955, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam began the short journey to the house of Moses Wright, where Emmett and his cousins were sleeping.
Bryant’s Grocery was a typical grocery building found throughout the Mississippi Delta, built sometime in the early 20th century. It stood for many decades in Money, changing hands several times. By the 1990s it was completely abandoned, and today the roof has collapsed and the remaining structure has been almost completely taken over by kudzu. This old but incredibly significant building is slowly fading into history.