President Biden on Tuesday officially designated national monuments to honor Emmett Till, who was killed at the hands of white supremacists and galvanized the civil rights movement, and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley. The move comes as conservatives around the country work to control, sanitize, and erase critical moments in Black history from public schools.
“At a time when there are those who seek to ban books and bury history, we’re making it crystal, crystal clear,” Biden said during the proclamation’s signing. “While darkness and denialism can hide much, it can erase nothing.” The monuments will be erected across three sites in Illinois and Mississippi, the states where Emmett was born and killed, respectively.
In 1955, 14-year-old Till was brutally murdered by two white men who had accused Till of flirting with Carolyn Bryant-Donham, a white woman. The men violently abducted Till and forced him to carry a 75-pound cotton gin, before shooting him and leaving his naked body in a river.
After his murder, Till-Mobley insisted on an open casket for the funeral.
“I think everybody needed to know what had happened to Emmett Till,” Till-Mobley said, explaining that a mortician had offered to “touch up” her son’s beaten body. Two publications, Jet and the Chicago Defender, later published photos of Till’s body, shocking the world.
“We can’t choose to learn what we want to know,” Biden continued in his remarks from the White House. “We have to learn what we should know. We should know about our country. We should know everything- the good, the bad, the truth about who we are as a nation.”
Tuesday marks what would have been Till’s 82nd birthday.