US President Joe Biden will erect a national monument to honor Emmett Till, the black Chicago teenager who was kidnapped, tortured and killed in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi, and his mother, a White House official said Saturday.
Biden will sign a proclamation Tuesday to create the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument at three sites in Illinois and Mississippi, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the White House has not formally announced the president’s plans.
Tuesday is the anniversary of Emmett Till’s birth in 1941.
The memorial will protect places that are central to 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 keeping an open casket at his funeral in order to show the world how her son had been brutalized and Jet magazine’s decision to publish photos of the teen’s mutilated corpse helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement.
Biden makes the decision at a tense time in the United States over issues related to race. Several conservative states are rejecting the teaching of slavery and black history in public schools, as well as embedding diversity, equity and inclusion programs from college classrooms to corporate boardrooms.
The memorial for Till and his mother will include three sites in the two states.
The site in Illinois is Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, Bronzeville, a historically black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Thousands of people gathered at the church to mourn the death of Emmett Till in September 1955.
The Mississippi locations are Graball Landing, where Till’s mutilated corpse is believed to have been recovered from the Tallahatchie River, and the second the Tallahatchie County District Court in Sumner, Mississippi, where Till’s killers were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury.
Till was visiting family in Mississippi when Carolyn Bryant Donham said the 14-year-old hissed at her and made sexual advances at her while she was working at a store in the small community of Money.
The teen was later kidnapped and his body dumped in the Tallahatchie River, after being shot, strapped to the fan of a cotton gin.
Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother JW Milam, stood trial on murder charges about a month after Till’s death, but were acquitted by an all-white Mississippi jury.
Months later, they confessed to killing Till in a paid interview with Look magazine. Bryant married Donham in 1955, who died earlier this year.