The monument will protect central locations in the story of Till’s life and death at age 14, the acquittal of his white murderers, and his mother’s activism. Till’s mother’s insistence on an open casket to show the world how her son had been brutalized and Jet magazine’s decision to publish photos of his mutilated body helped galvanize the civil rights movement.
Biden’s decision also comes at a difficult time in the United States over race issues. Conservative leaders are rejecting the teaching of slavery and black history in public schools, as well as the incorporation of diversity, equity and inclusion programs from university classrooms to corporate boards.
On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris criticized a revised black history curriculum in Florida that includes teaching that enslaved people benefited from the skills learned from people who denied them their freedom. The Florida Board of Education approved the curriculum to satisfy legislation signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate who has accused public schools of liberal indoctrination.
« How is it that anyone could suggest that amidst these atrocities there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization? » Harris asked in a speech delivered from Jacksonville, Florida.
DeSantis said he had no role in devising his state’s new educational standards, but defended constituents on how they benefited enslaved people.
“All of that is rooted in everything factual,” he said in response.
The monument to Till and his mother will include three sites in the two states.
The Illinois site is Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Bronzeville, a historically black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Thousands gathered at the church to mourn Emmett Till in September 1955.
Locations in Mississippi are Graball Landing, believed to be where Till’s mutilated body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, and the Tallahatchie County 2nd 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 booed and made sexual advances at her while she worked at a store in the small community of Money.
Till was subsequently abducted and his body eventually pulled from the Tallahatchie River, where it had been dumped after being struck and weighted down with a cotton gin fan.
Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother JW Milam, went on trial on murder charges about a month after Till was killed, but an all-white Mississippi jury acquitted them. Months later, they confessed to killing Till in a paid interview with Look magazine. Bryant was married to Donham in 1955. She died earlier this year.
The monument will be the fourth Biden has created since taking office in 2021, and only his latest tribute to young Till.
For Black History Month this year, Biden hosted a screening of the film « Till, » a drama about his lynching.
In March 2022, Biden signed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act into law. Congress first considered such legislation more than 120 years ago.
The Justice Department announced in December 2021 that it was closing the investigation into Till’s murder.