WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will establish a national memorial to honor Emmett Till, the black Chicago teenager who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi, and his mother, a White House official said Saturday.
Biden will sign a proclamation Tuesday to create the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument at 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 memorial will protect places that are central to the story of Till’s life and death at age 14, the acquittal of his white murderers and his mother’s activism, which helped spark the civil rights movement. Till’s mother insisted on an open casket so the world could see how her son had been brutalized and Jet magazine published photos of her body.
Biden’s decision also comes at a tense time in the United States over issues related to race. Conservative leaders are rejecting the teaching of slavery and black history in public schools, as well as the embedment of 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 benefited from skills they learned at the hands of those who denied them their freedom. The Florida Board of Education approved the curriculum to satisfy legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate who accused public schools of liberal indoctrination.
«How is it possible that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities there was any benefit in being subjected to this level of dehumanization?» asked Harris in a speech delivered from Jacksonville, Florida.
The memorial for Till and his mother will include three separate sites in the two states, including the Temple Roberts Church 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 memorial will include Graball Landing, which is believed to be where Till’s mutilated body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River. The third site is the Tallahatchie County Second 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 hissed at her and made sexual advances to her while working at a store in the small community of Money.
Till was kidnapped and days later his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, where he was dumped after being shot and loaded with a cotton gin fan.
Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother JW Milam, stood trial on murder charges about a month after Till was killed, but were acquitted by an all-white Mississippi jury. Months later, they confessed 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 he took office in 2021.