Biden to designate civil rights monument amid new racism row

Sebastian Smith - Agence France-Presse
Biden to designate civil rights monument amid new racism row
U.S. President Joe Biden gives remarks on Artificial Intelligence in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on July 21, 2023 in Washington, DC. President Biden gave remarks to reporters before a meeting with seven leaders of A.I. companies that Biden said would consist of a discussion of new safeguarding tactics for the developing technology.
Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images / AFP

WASHINGTON, United States — President Joe Biden is set to designate a new national monument on Tuesday memorializing the brutal 1950s lynching of Emmett Till, with the White House framing the symbolic act as part of a fight against resurgent racism.

The monument, sited in several locations, will remember the 14-year-old Black boy tortured and murdered by white men in 1955 after he allegedly whistled at a white shopkeeper's wife in Mississippi.

His mother Mamie Till-Mobley, also honored in the memorial, became an activist, and is widely viewed as having helped to spark the US civil rights movement.

"The new monument will protect places that tell the story of Emmett Till's too-short life and racially-motivated murder, the unjust acquittal of his murderers, and the activism of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who courageously brought the world's attention to the brutal injustices and racism of the time, catalyzing the civil rights movement," the White House said.

The memorial signing by Biden -- on the 82nd anniversary of Till's birth -- will designate three historic sites in Illinois and Mississippi.

One of them will be the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, where Till's mother insisted at her son's funeral that the casket remain open, allowing a huge crowd to see the boy's disfigured body.

Another will be the Tallahatchie, Mississippi courthouse where an all-white jury found the men accused of murdering Till not guilty. They would later admit to the crime.

The third location will be the spot on the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi where Till's battered body was eventually discovered. Signs commemorating the brutal event there and in other locations around Tallahatchie County have repeatedly been defaced and vandalized over the years.

Biden's high-profile treatment for a painful piece of 20th century US history is playing out against a backdrop of accusations that a leading Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential race is openly stirring racist sentiment.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has led a charge to minimize the history of past racism in his state's school curriculum, making this part of a broader campaign against what he describes as the "virus" of "woke" left-wing values.

Responding to an outcry over what has been described as an attempt to rewrite history, DeSantis last week doubled down, saying that slavery even had benefits.

"They're probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life," DeSantis said Friday.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described DeSantis's comment as "inaccurate" and "insulting."

"It's hurtful and prevents an honest account, an honest account of our nation's history," she said.

Jean-Pierre, who is Black, said the Emmett Till monument was part of "the broader story of American Black oppression, their survival."

"It's an important moment. You're going to hear directly from the president tomorrow," she said.

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