OAN’s Shawntel Smith-Hill
4:59 PM – Tuesday, July 25, 2023
On what would have been Emmett Till’s 82nd birthday, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation to erect and designate a national monument honoring the historical Black teen from Chicago who was murdered in 1955 after being falsely accused of whistling at a White woman.
Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, will also be honored in addition to her son.
“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, Mamie Till-Mobley, who courageously brought the world’s attention to the brutal injustices and racism of the time, catalyzing the civil rights movement,” an official statement from the White House stated.
The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument will span two states, covering 5.7 acres, with three sites in both Illinois and Mississippi, which are the states where Till was born and where he was killed.
The new monuments mark a call to remember the country’s past racist and bloody history while honoring Till, whose death helped to impel the Civil Rights Movement.
In preparation for the White House ceremony, which members of the Till family had attended, Biden commented, “I can’t fathom what it must have been like… I know no matter how much time has passed, how many birthdays, how many events, how many anniversaries, it’s hard to relive this.”
The proclamation comes amidst national debates over how painful facts regarding America’s history should be presented in public schools. Some Republican-led states have introduced new standards, which critics urge may downplay the ugly truth of slavery and the reality of racially-fueled violence.
Florida is one such state that has come under fire recently as new education guidelines are, in part, required to include instruction to middle schoolers on, “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” The guidelines also mention acts of violence “against and by” African Americans.
“How is it that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?” Vice President Kamala Harris asked during a speech delivered from Jacksonville, Florida.
The new monuments will be placed at the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ on Chicago’s South Side, where Till’s funeral was held, and at Graball Landing in Mississippi, where Till’s body, weighed down by a cotton-gin fan attached to his neck, was discovered and eventually pulled from the Tallahatchie River.
The Tallahatchie County Second District Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi, also marks the location where those responsible for Till’s murder were tried and acquitted by an all-White jury.
Till, who was 14 -years-old at the time of his death, had been visiting relatives in Mississippi when Carolyn Bryant Donham alleged that the young boy whistled and made sexual advances towards her while she was working.
He was soon after abducted and murdered for the falsely accused crime, before his body was eventually disposed of in the Tallahatchie River.
The two White men who murdered Till, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam, were tried on charges a month after he was killed. However, they were acquitted of all charges, despite later confessing to Till’s death.
The move by Biden to name these historic sites as national monuments means that the sites will be considered federal property and will receive around $180,000 a year in renovation funding from the National Park Service.
Furthermore, any subsequent vandalism would result in a serious federal law enforcement inquiry.
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