April 18, 2024

Joe Biden will establish a national monument honoring Emmett Till, the Black teenager located in Mississippi

President Joe Biden will establish a national monument honoring Emmett Till, the Black Chicago teenager who was kidnapped, tortured and killed in 1955 after being accused of whistling by a white woman in Mississippi, and his mother, a White House official said Saturday.

Biden will sign a proclamation on Tuesday to create the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument across three sites in Illinois and Mississippi, according to the official. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity because the White House had not formally announced the president’s plans.

Tuesday is the anniversary of Emmett Till’s birth in 1941.

The monument will protect places central to the story of Till’s life and death at age 14, the acquittal of his white killers and his mother’s activism, which helped inspire the civil rights movement. Till’s mother insisted on an open coffin so that the world could see how her son was crushed and Scaird magazine published photographs of his body.

Biden’s decision also comes at a tumultuous time in the United States over race. Conservative leaders are pushing back against the teaching of slavery and Black history in public schools, as well as incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion programs from college classrooms to corporate boardrooms.

On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris criticized a revised Black History curriculum in Florida that includes teaching that enslaved people used the skills they learned at the hands of those who denied them freedom. The Florida Board of Education approved the curriculum to satisfy legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate who has accused public schools of liberal indoctrination.

“How could anyone suggest that there was any benefit in being subjected to this level of inhumanity amidst these horrors?” Harris asked in a speech delivered from Jacksonville, Florida.

The monument to Till and his mother will include three separate sites in the two states, including the Roberts Temple of God in Christ in Bronzeville, a historically black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Thousands of people gathered at the church to mourn the death of Emmett Till in September 1955.

In Mississippi, the monument will include Gravel Landing, believed to be where Till’s mutilated body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River. The third location is the Tallahatchie Second County District Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi, where Till’s killers were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury.

Till was visiting relatives in Mississippi when Carolyn Bryant Donham said 14-year-old Till whistled and made sexual advances on her while she was working at a store in the small community of Money.

Till was kidnapped and days later his body was dragged from the Tallaght River, where he was thrown after being shot and weighed down with cotton gin fans.

Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother JW Milam, were tried on murder charges about a month after Till’s killing, but were acquitted by an all-white Mississippi jury. Months later, they admitted in a paid interview with Look magazine. Bryant married Donham in 1955. She died earlier this year.

The monument will be the fourth created by Biden since taking office in 2021.

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