Before he leaves office, Obama is helping cold case murder victims get justice.

14-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped, beaten, and brutally murdered by two white men after whistling at a white woman during a trip to Mississippi in 1955.

The men tried for his murder were acquitted by an all-white jury, but later confessed their crimes to a reporter but the case couldn't be re-tried.


While Till's brutal murder shocked the country, racially charged murders were all too common then. Between 1877 and 1950, there were almost 4,000 cases of lynching of African-Americans, and that's just in the Southern states. Like Till, many were beaten, shot, or tortured to death well past the mid-century. Many of the perpetrators were untried or acquitted by all-white local juries.

But with the help of new legislation, some of these families may finally see justice served.

In one of his last moves in office, President Obama signed a bill that may finally help these murder victims and their families get justice.

Hundreds of racially-motivated cold case murders may be investigated with fresh eyes thanks to the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016.

The new bill indefinitely extends a 2007 law that calls for a full review and accounting of civil rights statute violations that took place before 1980 and resulted in a death. The 2007 law was set to expire in 2017.

President Barack Obama speaks during a conversation on community policing and criminal justice in Washington, D.C. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The law gives local police and district attorneys access to federal resources to investigate crimes that occurred before 1980, a 10-year extension on the 2007 law. Since many of these cases were picked up by civil rights groups, nonprofit groups, and universities after local jurisdictions marked them cold, the bill requires the FBI and/or the Justice Department to meet regularly with these entities to share information and keep investigators and the victim's families on the same page.

Since 2005, the FBI has investigated more than 100 cold cases, and this reauthorization will finally give jurisdictions the resources they need to successfully investigate these crimes.

In a powerful example of bipartisanship, the bill was also sponsored by legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Iconic civil rights activist John Lewis, D-Georgia, Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, and John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, ushered the bill through the House. And Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, and Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

“As we work to address current questions about racial violence and civil rights, we should be mindful of our history and why so many in the African-American community raise the issue of whether black lives matter,” Rep. John Conyers Jr. said to USA Today. “Passage of the original Emmett Till Act represented a commitment to resolving the unanswered questions from one of the darkest periods in modern American history.”

Rep. John Lewis (L) and Rep. John Conyers (R) greet each other during the Congressional Black Caucus swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. Photo by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images.

The reauthorization of the Emmett Till Bill is a small, but important, step toward racial equality.

It's clear race-based violence, harassment, and intimidation didn't end with the civil rights movement. Protests, demonstrations, and marches continue as black Americans and their allies join together to fight for justice at every level.

To move forward, we must remember victims like Emmett Till and honor their memories by demanding equality and bringing their killers to justice once and for all.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

Keep Reading Show less