June 15, 2024

Joe Biden Names National Monument Honoring Emmett Till And His Mother

President Joe Biden established a national monument to honor Emmett Till and his mother on Tuesday and called out Republican efforts to prevent civil rights education in classrooms.

The new monument will consist of three protected sites: one in Illinois, where Till was from, and two in Mississippi, where white men abducted, tortured, mutilated and lynched 14-year-old Till for allegedly flirting with one of his wives while visiting family in the state in 1955.

“When I was preparing these statements, I understand, frankly – and my colleagues this – I found myself trying to calm my anger as I wrote,” Biden opened his comments. “I’m not kidding. I can’t understand how it was.”

The monument designation fell on what would have been the 82nd birthday. His late mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, was also honored for her civil rights activism after her son’s murder, including her insistence that he have an open funeral so people could see how his attackers dismembered him.

President Joe Biden signs a proclamation establishing the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument in Illinois and Mississippi.

ONLY MANDEL via Getty Images

“All of us who have lost children in other ways know how hard it is to even close the casket or keep it open — it’s a debate,” said Biden, who lost his 1-year-old daughter Naomi in a car accident in 1972 and his son Beau, 46, to cancer in 2015.

Till’s cousin, the Rev. Wheeler Parker, who accompanied him on his trip to Mississippi, also at Tuesday’s ceremony, saying: “Back there in the dark, I could never have imagined a moment like this, standing in the light of wisdom, grace and provision.”

Biden also criticized the growing Republican effort to curtail education on the civil rights movement and Black history during his speech on Tuesday.

“At a time when there are people who seek to ban books, to bury history, we are making it clear — crystal clear: While darkness and denial can hide much, they destroy nothing,” Biden said.

Under Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Florida banned the new Advanced Placement course on Black History and, more recently, approved a K-12 curriculum saying slaves benefited from their unpaid forced labor. There is also a growing conservative movement to ban racially themed books from school and public libraries.

Biden continued: “We cannot choose exactly what we want to know; we must learn what we should know. We should know about our country. We should know everything: the good, the bad, the truth, who we are as a nation.”

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