WASHINGTON – Timed to what would have been Emmett Till’s 82nd birthday, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation to designate the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, a multi-state national monument which includes the Tallahatchie County courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi; Graball Landing on the banks of the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi; and Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, Illinois. This proclamation brings to reality an overdue national recognition of Emmett Till’s life and legacy, along with his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who courageously catalyzed the American civil rights movement.
At the Presidential signing ceremony was Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr., cousin and last-living witness of Emmett Till’s kidnapping, along with representatives from the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, National Park Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association, and others.
“After 15 years of hard work, we have finally achieved a designation that we believe is pivotal to our nation’s story,” said Patrick Weems, executive director, Emmett Till Interpretive Center. “The lynching of Emmett Till and the courage of Mamie Till-Mobley served as a springboard to the modern Civil Rights Movement, and preserving this history in perpetuity will serve as a continual act of restorative justice. We extend our deepest gratitude to the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors and Congressman Bennie Thompson for championing this vision of reconciliation, which has now become a national monument.”
The president’s designation is only a first step to protecting and preserving these sites; there is still work that needs to be done, including restoring the sites and providing interpretive services. The Emmett Till Interpretive Center looks forward to partnering with the national monument to connect park visitors with the story of Emmett Till by providing tours and educational experiences throughout the monument and other areas significant to the Till story.
“We should not be defined by our worst moments in the past, but rather, by the best we can be in the future. Out of the tragedy of Emmett Till’s brutal murder, a national monument has risen as a symbol of hope, healing, and reconciliation. Through this designation, we affirm that what man intended for evil, God can indeed use for good. We honor the memory of Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley, whose courageous actions sparked a civil rights movement and continue to inspire us today. We are grateful to the local people of Tallahatchie County who have tirelessly worked to make this monument a reality. Their efforts remind us that out of the ashes of tragedy, beauty can emerge, and that through collective action, we can transform pain into progress,” said Rev. Willie Williams, chair of the board of directors, Emmett Till Interpretive Center.
Tallahatchie County courthouse is where the September 1955 trial of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant for Emmett Till’s murder took place. Mamie Till-Mobley bravely traveled down to Mississippi to take the stand during trial to testify. Emmett’s great-uncle, Moses Wright, risked his life when he identified the murderers from the witness stand. Both men were acquitted. This injustice intensified Mamie Till-Mobley’s lifelong fight for civil rights and social justice in honor of the legacy of her son, Emmett. In 2007, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission of Tallahatchie County, Inc., offered a public apology to the Till family on behalf of the citizens of the county on those same courthouse steps where the murderers had walked free.
Graball Landing is where Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River. In recent years, signs marking this location have been stolen, replaced, shot, replaced again, and shot again. One of the signs is now a part of the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History; a second sign is now touring the country as part of a traveling exhibit created by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the Till family, the Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, and the Emmett Till Interpretive Center.
Immediately upon designation, visitors to the monument are able to get their National Parks Passport stamped and will see National Park Service logos and markers. ETIC will continue to provide interpretive programming at the courthouse and the river site. For more information: emmett-till.org.
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center was formed to confront the brutal truth of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta and to seek justice for the Till family and Delta community. The Center aims to tell the story of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, as an act of restorative justice to create the conditions necessary to begin the process of racial healing in Mississippi and across the nation. For more information about the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, visit https://www.emmett-till.org or follow ETIC on Facebook (facebook.com/tillcenter), Twitter @emmetttillcenter, or Instagram @tillnationalpark.