President Biden on Tuesday installed a national monument to honor Emmett Till, a young black man who helped fuel the civil rights movement in 1955, making a case for reckoning with the legacy of racism in America even as some Republicans try to limit how black history is taught.
The memorial honors Dill and his mother, Mamie Dill-Mobley, who insisted on an open casket at her son’s funeral, saying “the whole nation should witness this.”
The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument includes three protected sites, in Illinois, where Emmett was born 82 years ago, and in Mississippi, where he was killed at age 14 after being accused of whistling at a white woman.
In a ceremony at the White House attended by Vice President Kamala Harris and members of the Till family, Mr. Biden slammed Republican efforts to ban books and “bury history.”
“Darkness and denial can hide a lot,” Mr. Biden said. But “they don’t destroy anything. We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know.
The president’s decision to dedicate the Till memorial comes amid a divisive political battle over how to teach black history in schools.
Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, was criticized after education officials in his state introduced new standards for teaching black history.
The standards state that middle school students should be taught that “slaves developed skills that, in some cases, could be used for their personal benefit.” The portrayal drew widespread condemnation, including from Ms. Harris.
“Don’t be fooled into thinking we’ll somehow be better if we forget,” he said at Tuesday’s ceremony.
Making an “awakened” agenda in education a signature part of his election platform, Mr. DeSantis defended the standards created in accordance with the law he signed.Stop the WOKE Act.” He accused Democrats of “indoctrinating students.”
Mr. Since Biden took office, more than 40 states have introduced or passed laws or taken other measures to limit how issues of race and racism are taught. According to academic week. The outlet is tracking legislation against what it calls the “critical race doctrine.” Conservative activists As a grip on the teachings of race.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre touted Florida’s new standards on Monday, saying the Till monument comes at “an important moment.”
“Don’t forget what we’ve seen over the past several months, we’ve seen radical officials in Florida and across the country lie about American history — the most recent example promoting a shameful, shameful lie that enslaved people actually benefited from slavery,” he said. “It’s wrong, it’s insulting. It’s hurtful and prevents an honest account of our nation’s history.
The Biden administration was concerned about Emmett’s death and Mrs. Till-Mobley has previously called for action. During a White House screening of “Dil” in February, Mr. Biden told the crowd he chose the movie because “history is important.”
“Remembering history is about shining a light on the good, the bad, the truth and who we are as a nation,” he said at the screening.
In March 2022, he called the signing of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which made murder a federal hate crime, “one of the greatest honors of my career.” Mr. Biden signed.
The memorial locations honor the Till family.
One site is Graball’s Landing in Tallahatchie County, Miss., where Emmett’s body is believed to have been pulled from the Tallahatchie River. His body was so mutilated that he could only be identified by the ring his mother had given him before he went to visit relatives in Mississippi.
Another is the church in Chicago where Emmett’s funeral was held, Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ.
More than 100,000 people thronged the church for a public viewing.
The third floor was the Tallahatchie County Second District Court in Sumner, Miss., where an all-white jury acquitted Emmett’s killers.
Anna Betts Report contributed from New York, and Jolan Kanno-Youngs From Washington.