Joe Biden designates piece of history to honor Emmett Till

Washington DC - President Joe Biden has designated three separate locations in Illinois and Mississippi to place new national monuments to memorialize the story of Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley.

President Joe Biden hosted a ceremony at the White House hosting lawmakers, Till's family members, and the last living witness to his abduction.
President Joe Biden hosted a ceremony at the White House hosting lawmakers, Till's family members, and the last living witness to his abduction.  © MANDEL NGAN / AFP

In August 1955, Carolyn Bryant Donham, a white woman, accused 14-year-old Emmett of whistling at her while walking out of a Mississippi grocery store.

Donham's husband and half-brother then kidnapped Till, brutally beat him, and shot him before throwing his body into a local river.

On Tuesday, what would have been Emmett's 82nd birthday, Biden held a ceremony at the White House for lawmakers, Till's family members, and the last living witness to his abduction.

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The president highlighted the importance of the monuments because he said Americans "should know everything - the good, the bad, the truth - [about] who we are as a nation."

One of the monuments will be placed at Graball Landing in Mississippi, at the location along the Tallahatchie River where Till's body was believed to be found.

The next will be placed at the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago where Emmett's historic funeral took place, in which his mother chose to have as open-casket for others to see the inhumanity of his murder. Her decision became a pivotal moment that helped propel the Civil Rights movement into the national spotlight.

The final location will be the Tallahatchie County Second District Courthouse, where Donham's husband and half-brother were acquitted for the murder by an all-white jury.

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Emmett Till, whose 1955 murder in Money, Mississippi helped spark the US Civil Rights movement.
Emmett Till, whose 1955 murder in Money, Mississippi helped spark the US Civil Rights movement.  © CREDITSCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Biden's move comes as a handful of far-right Republican politicians have been leading a war on "wokeness," and have been passing laws that put restrictions on how specific subjects are taught in schools, such as race, gender, and sexuality.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been passing the most aggressive laws, and the state's Board of Education recently passed new standards on how Black history will be taught, including teaching that slaves were taught skills that "could be applied for their personal benefit."

While proponents of such measures argue it's meant to protect children from sensitive subjects or feeling "guilt" about their race, critics argue that it is an attempt to whitewash history.

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Congress passed a law named in Till's honor making lynching a federal hate crime last March, while the US Justice Department closed their final investigation into his murder in December 2021, saying a prosecution would not be possible.

Carolyn Bryant Donham allegedly admitted to lying about the incident with Emmett Till, which she denies, but recently passed away in April, taking the truth with her.

Cover photo: Collage: Mandel NGAN / AFP & CREDITSCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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