President Joe Biden plans to name a new national monument next week after Emmett Till, a White House official told CNN, honoring the Black teenager whose murder in 1955 helped galvanize the civil rights movement.
Biden will designate the monument on Tuesday, which would have been Till’s 82nd birthday.
“The new monument will protect places that tell the story of Emmett Till’s too-short life and racially-motivated murder, the unjust acquittal of his murderers, and the activism of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who courageously brought the world’s attention to the brutal injustices and racism of the time, catalyzing the civil rights movement,” a White House official said.
The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument will be centered in Illinois and Mississippi, the states where Till was from and killed, respectively.
A 14-year-old from Chicago, Till was visiting family in Mississippi, when he was beaten and shot to death for allegedly whistling at a White woman. Till’s mother had insisted on an open-casket funeral so visitors could see her son’s body, mangled beyond recognition – a decision that helped fuel the civil rights movement.
The designation will come amid a national debate over how to teach painful facts about American history in public schools. Some Republican-led states have enacted new standards that critics say sanitize history, including the realities of slavery and of racist violence.
The Biden administration has demonstrated new willingness to push back on those new policies. Vice President Kamala Harris made a last minute trip to Florida on Friday to respond to new state education guidelines that, in part, require instruction for middle schoolers to include “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” The guidelines also mention acts of violence “against and by” African Americans.
The new monument will encompass three separate sites, the official said, including the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ on Chicago’s South Side, the site of Till’s funeral.
Two additional sites will be in Mississippi: Graball Landing, which is believed to be where Till’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, and the Tallahatchie County Second District Courthouse in Sumner, where an all-White jury acquitted Till’s murderers.
“The designation reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to advance civil rights and commitment to protecting places that help tell a more complete story of our nation’s history,” the official said.