US President Joe Biden is set to designate a new national monument on Tuesday memorializing the horrific 1950s lynching of Emmett Till, with the White House framing the symbolic act as part of a fight against resurgent racism. The monument, encompassing several locations, will honor the 14-year-old Black boy who was tortured and murdered by white men in 1955 after he allegedly whistled at a white shopkeeper’s wife in Mississippi.
His mother Mamie Till-Mobley, who became an activist after the murder and is credited with having helped spark the US civil rights movement, will also be remembered in the national memorial.
“The new monument will protect places that tell the story of Emmett Till’s too-short life and racially-motivated murder, the unjust acquittal of his murderers, and the activism of his mother,” the White House said.
The memorial proclamation will be unveiled by Biden in the ornate Indian Treaty Room at the White House, with the last surviving witness to Till’s fatal abduction in attendance.
Wheeler Parker, a pastor now in his 80s, was Till’s best friend and cousin when, aged 16, he witnessed him be taken away to his death. The White House said Parker would be joined by about 60 other guests, including Till family members, civil rights leaders and senior government officials.
Signed on the 82nd anniversary of Till’s birth, Biden’s proclamation will preserve three historic sites in Illinois and Mississippi.
One of them 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 remain open, allowing a huge crowd and the press to see the boy’s disfigured body — a moment that galvanized public outrage.
Another will be the Tallahatchie, Mississippi, courthouse where an all-white jury found the men accused of murdering Till 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 in other locations around Tallahatchie County have repeatedly been defaced and vandalized over the years.
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