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Biden will designate a national monument honoring Emmett Till and his mother

Emmett Till, from Chicago, had traveled to Mississippi to visit his relatives when he was killed.
Emmett Till, from Chicago, had traveled to Mississippi to visit his relatives when he was killed.

President Biden will designate a national monument at three sites in honor of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley — both of whom served as catalysts for the civil rights movement.

Biden is expected to sign a proclamation on Tuesday, which will be the 82nd anniversary of Till's birth.

The new monument will be established across three locations in Illinois and Mississippi in an effort to protect places that tell Till's story, as well as reflect the activism of his mother, who was instrumental in keeping the story of Till's murder alive.

In August 1955, two white men abducted, tortured and killed Till, a 14-year-old Black boy, after he whistled at a white shopkeeper's wifein a grocery store in Mississippi. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were acquitted but later confessed to the killing in a magazine. Fifty years after the crime, the shopkeeper's wife, Carolyn Bryant Donham, also admitted to lying about Till touching her.

Among the sites that will be honored is Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, where Till's funeral service was held in September 1955.

About 1,700 people filled the church to its capacity, while 10,000 more stood outside and listened to the service over loudspeakers. The ceremony was also remembered for Till-Mobley's brave decision to keep the casket open, showing Till's mutilated body.

In Mississippi, Graball Landing will become a monument. Locals believe it is the spot where Till's body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River. In 2008, a memorial sign dedicated to Till was installed near the site.

But over the years, the sign was routinely stolen, vandalized or shot at and forced to be replaced. A fourth edition now stands at the site — this time bulletproof and details the history of vandalism.

The third monument location will be the Tallahatchie County Second District Courthouse, also in Mississippi, where Till's killers were acquitted by an all-white jury. In October 2007, Till's family visited the courthouse to receive an apologyfrom the town's leaders.

At the time, Till's cousin, Simeon Wright, who was there the night Till was kidnapped, said he appreciated the efforts — though it came decades after his cousin's death.

"You are doing what you could. If you could do more, you would," Wright said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.