President Joe Biden established a national monument Tuesday honoring Emmett Till, the Black teenager who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955.
The president signed a proclamation to create the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument across three sites in Illinois and Mississippi.
“At a time when there are those who seek to ban books and bury history, we’re making it clear, crystal clear, how darkness and denialism can hide much, but they erase nothing,” Biden said. “We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know. We have to learn what we should know. We should know about our country. We should know everything — the good, the bad, and the truth of who we are as a nation. That’s what great nations do, and we are a great nation.”
The Mississippi locations are Graball Landing and Tallahatchie County Second District Courthouse. Graball Landing is where the 14-year-old’s body is believed to have been pulled from the Tallahatchie River. Tallahatchie County Second District Courthouse in Sumner is where Till’s accused killers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were tried and acquitted.
The Illinois site is Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Bronzeville, a historically Black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. In 1955, thousands of people gathered at the church to mourn the death of the teenager.
“From a time when we lived in fear, to a time when the president and vice president gave us this great hope — they kept their promise by delivering [the monument],” Till’s cousin, Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr. said. “This is what America means to me — promises made, promises kept.”
Biden’s proclamation also directs the National Park Service to develop a plan in consultation with local communities, organizations, and the public to support the interpretation and preservation of other key sites in Mississippi and Illinois that help tell the story of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley.
Over six decades ago, Till was staying with relatives in the small town of Money when he was accused of whistling at Carolyn Bryant Donham, a white woman. When told of Till’s purported actions, Donham’s husband and his half-brother beat and tortured the teen until he died from a gunshot to the head.
The young man’s death has fueled a civil rights movement that has lasted for decades with his renewed case being closed once again in December 2021, leaving Donham free of any charges.