President Joe Biden has signed a proclamation establishing a national monument dedicated to Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black teenager who was murdered in 1955, and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who fought to tell her son’s story.
Till was visiting relatives in near Money, Mississippi, in August of 1955 when a white female grocery clerk accused him of making inappropriate advances. Four days later, the boy was kidnapped from his great aunt and uncle’s house, tortured, and lynched by at least two white men. His body was found on August 31, 1955.
During Till’s funeral on September 3, his mother insisted on an open-casket service, despite the order of authorities. She said she “wanted the world to see” what had been done to her son.
“Ida B. Wells once said, ‘The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth on them.’ That’s our charge today,” President Biden said upon signing the proclamation during a ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.
Join the Vice President and me as I sign a proclamation to establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument in Illinois and Mississippi. https://t.co/PYuM3Id2ZY
— President Biden (@POTUS) July 25, 2023
The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument comprises 5.70 acres across three sites: Graball Landing, near Glendora, Mississippi, where Emmett Till’s body is believed to have been discovered in the Tallahatchie River; Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, where the funeral took place; and the Tallahatchie County Second District Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi, where the child’s murderers were acquitted by an all-white jury.
President Biden’s signing took place on what would have been Till’s 82nd birthday, and arrived amid renewed fights over the American History syllabuses.
Last week, the Florida Board of Education approved a new set of standards for how Black history should be taught in public schools. Among the changes is a requirement that middle school students learn about “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” according to the department’s website. In May, the board also rejected social studies textbooks that included references to social justice and “other information that was not aligned with Florida Law.
Last year, the state passed governor Ron DeSantis’s “Stop Woke Act,” which prohibits instructors from saying that people may be privileged or oppressed based on their race or skin color.
President Biden alluded to these developments during today’s ceremony. “At a time when there are those who seek to ban books and bury history, I’ll be clear: Darkness and denialism can hide much, but they erase nothing,” he said in a statement after the fact. “We should learn everything: the good, bad, and truth of who we are.”
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