WASHINGTON — (TodayNews) — President Joe Biden will erect a national monument in honor of Emmett Till, the black teenager from Chicago who was kidnapped, tortured and killed in 1955 after he was accused of whistling a white woman in Mississippi, and his mother, a White House spokesman said Saturday.
Biden will sign an executive order Tuesday to create a national monument to Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley at three sites in Illinois and Mississippi, the official said. The man spoke on condition of anonymity because the White House has not officially announced the president’s plans.
Tuesday is the birthday of Emmett Till in 1941.
The monument will defend places that are central to the story of Till’s life and death at the age of 14, the justification of his white killers, and his mother’s activism. Till’s mother’s insistence that the coffin be opened to show the world how her son had been abused, and Jet’s magazine’s decision to publish photographs of his mutilated body, helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement.
Biden’s decision also comes at a challenging time in the United States on issues relating to race. Conservative leaders oppose the teaching of slavery and black history in public schools, and the incorporation of diversity, justice, and inclusion programs from college classrooms to corporate boardrooms.
On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris criticized Florida’s revised black history curriculum, which includes the teaching that enslaved people benefit from the skills they received at the hands of the people who denied them their freedom. The Florida Board of Education approved the curriculum under legislation signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate that accused public schools of liberal indoctrination.
“How is it that anyone could suggest that among these atrocities, there is any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?” Harris asked in a speech delivered from Jacksonville, Florida.
DeSantis said he was not involved in developing his state’s new education standards, but defended the components of how enslaved people benefit.
“It’s all based on facts,” he said in response.
The monument to Till and his mother will include three sites in two states.
The Illinois location is the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Bronzeville, a historically black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Thousands of people gathered in church to mourn Emmett Till in September 1955.
Mississippi locations are Graeball Wharf, believed to be the site where Till’s mutilated body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, and the Tallahatchie County Second Circuit 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 that 14-year-old Till whistled and flirted with her while she worked in a shop in the small town of Money.
Till was later kidnapped, and his body was eventually pulled from the Tallahatchie River, where he was dumped after he was shot and pinned down by a cotton gin fan.
Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J. W. Milam, went on trial on murder charges about a month after Till’s murder, but an all-white Mississippi jury acquitted them. A few months later, they confessed to killing Till in a paid interview with Look magazine. Bryant married Donham in 1955. She died earlier this year.
The monument will be the fourth monument created by Biden since taking office in 2021, and simply his final tribute to the younger Till.
This year, as part of Black History Month, Biden hosted a screening of Till, a drama about his lynching.
In March 2022, Biden signed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act into law. Congress first considered such legislation over 120 years ago.
In December 2021, the Justice Department announced that it was closing the investigation into Till’s murder.
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