President Biden will inaugurate a national memorial on Tuesday to honor Emmett Dill, a young black man who was brutally murdered in 1955, and his mother, Mamie Dill-Mobley, White House officials said.
Emmett’s murder and his mother’s subsequent activism helped spark the Civil Rights Movement, and Mr. Biden remembers both.
As defined by the National Park Service, a national monument is a protected area similar to a national park. There are more than 100 national monuments in the country. The new memorial will include three protected sites in Illinois, where Emmett was found, and Mississippi, where he was killed.
One site was the church where Emmett’s funeral was held, Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, in a historically black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side called Bronzeville. Another is Graball’s Landing in Tallahatchie County, Miss., where Emmett’s body is believed to have been pulled from the Tallahatchie River. The third floor was the Tallahatchie County Second District Court in Sumner, Miss., where an all-white jury acquitted Emmett’s killers.
Patrick Weems, Managing Director Interpretation Center up to Emmett In Sumner, he said Sunday that news of the memorial brought tears to his eyes.
“I’m so happy for the Dill family and our community for working tirelessly to get these sites recognized,” he said. “It’s a lot of emotions.”
The installation of the new memorial on Tuesday — Emmett’s 82nd birthday — comes amid polarized debate in the country over the teaching of black history in public schools. Last week in Florida, the state’s Board of Education came under fire after approving new standards for the instruction of African American history that included teaching middle school students skills that would benefit them during their enslavement.
Monuments like Emmett and Mrs. Till-Mobley help tell America’s story and contribute to educating the country, Mr. Weems said. “If we’re going to grow as a society, we have to process past hurts and past hurts in this country, and Emmett Till represents some of those hurts,” he said.
“I think it allows us to never say no more,” he added. “This is not who we want to be.”
In August 1955, Emmett was 14 years old and visiting relatives in the Mississippi Delta when he was kidnapped, tortured and killed by a white woman named Carolyn Bryant Donham, who accused him of blowing the whistle on her in the store where she worked.
At the time her husband Roy Bryant and her half-brother J.W. The Milams kidnapped Emmett at gunpoint and took him to a barn about 45 minutes away. After torturing him, they shot him in the head, tied a 75-pound cotton gin fan around his neck with barbed wire, and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River.
Emmett’s body was eventually pulled from the river, although his remains could only be identified by a silver ring on one of his fingers. An eye was gouged out, both wrists were broken, and parts of the skull were crushed.
Mrs Till-Mobley insisted on an open casket at his funeral, insisting “the whole nation should witness this”.
“They wanted to see what I saw,” he wrote in his memoir. She became a teacher and civil rights activist, and died in 2003.
According to The Chicago Defender, 250,000 mourners attended during four days of public viewings, and many others saw photographs of Emmett’s body in Jet magazine.
The case went to trial, but with an all-white, all-male jury was released Accused of murder Mr. Bryant and Mr. Milam are two. Later, a grand jury chose not to indict them on kidnapping charges. After the men were acquitted and freed from further investigation, they confessed to the murder. They both died.
Last year, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict Ms. Donham on charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping or manslaughter. She died in April.
In 2008, eight signs recounting Emmett’s story were erected in northwest Mississippi, including one at Graball Landing. A year later, a sign from the river where Emmett’s body was found was stolen and thrown into the river. An alternative sign was soon defaced with bullet holes. In 2018, another alternative was installed, but 35 days after it went up, it too was shot. In 2019, a new, bulletproof sign was installed along with a surveillance system.
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Emmett Till Interpretation Center, Rev. Willie Williams said in a statement Sunday that the national monument will be a symbol of healing. “It will remind people that beauty can emerge from the ashes of tragedy and that pain can be turned into progress through collective action,” he added.