President Joe Biden is expected to designate a new national monument Tuesday to commemorate the brutal lynching of Emmett Till in the 1950s, with the White House framing the symbolic act as part of a fight against resurgence in racism.
The monument, located in several locations, will remember the 14-year-old black boy tortured and murdered by white men in 1955 after he allegedly stalked the wife of a white shopkeeper in Mississippi.
His mother Mamie Till-Mobley, also honored in the memorial, became an activist and is widely considered to have helped spark the American civil rights movement.
“The new monument will protect places that tell the story of Emmett Till’s all-too-short life and racially motivated murder, the unjust acquittal of his killers, and the activism of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who bravely brought the brutal injustices and racism of the time to world attention, catalyzing the civil rights movement,” the White House said.
The memorial signing by Biden — on the 82nd anniversary of Till’s birth — will designate three historic sites in Illinois and Mississippi.
One will be the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, where Till’s mother insisted at her son’s funeral that the casket be left open, allowing a huge crowd to view the boy’s disfigured body.
Another will be the courthouse in Tallahatchie, Mississippi, where an all-white jury found the men charged with Till’s murder not guilty. They would later admit to the crime.
The third location will be the spot on the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi where Till’s battered body was eventually discovered. Signs commemorating the brutal event there and other locations in Tallahatchie County have been repeatedly defaced and vandalized over the years.
Biden’s high-profile treatment of a painful piece of 20th-century American history unfolds against the backdrop of accusations that a top Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential race is openly stoking racist sentiment.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has led a charge to downplay the history of past racism in his state’s school curriculum, making it part of a larger campaign against what he describes as the “virus” of “woke” left-wing values.
Responding to an outcry over what has been described as an attempt to rewrite history, DeSantis doubled down last week, saying slavery even had benefits.
“They’re probably going to show some of the people who eventually made it, you know, to blacksmith to do things later in life,” DeSantis said on Friday.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called DeSantis’ comment “inaccurate” and “insulting.”
“It’s hurtful and prevents an honest narrative, an honest telling of our nation’s history,” she said.
Jean-Pierre, who is black, said Emmett Till’s monument was part of “the larger story of the oppression of black Americans, their survival.”
“This is an important moment. You are going to hear directly from the president tomorrow,” she said.