As President Joe Biden signed a proclamation on Tuesday establishing a national monument honoring Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, it marked the fulfillment of a promise Till’s relatives made after his death 68 years ago.
The Black teenager from Chicago, whose abduction, torture and killing in Mississippi in 1955 helped propel the civil rights movement, will be seen as more than just a cause of that movement, said Till’s cousin the Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr.
“We are resolute that it now becomes an American story and not just a civil rights story,” Parker told The Associated Press, ahead of a proclamation signing ceremony at the White House attended by dozens, including other family members, members of Congress and civil rights leaders.
With the stroke of Biden’s pen, the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, located across three sites in two states, became federally protected places. But Till’s family members, along with a national organization seeking to preserve Black cultural heritage sites, say their work protecting the Till legacy continues.
They hope to raise money to restore the sites and develop educational programming to support their inclusion in the National Park System.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday that the Till national monument will be the Biden-Harris administration’s fourth designation that reflects their “work to advance civil rights.” The move comes as conservative leaders, mostly at the state and local levels, push legislation that limits the teaching of slavery and Black history in public schools.
The Democratic president’s administration “will continue to speak out against hateful attempts to rewrite our history and strongly oppose any actions that threaten to divide us and take our country backwards,” Jean-Pierre said.