Remarks by Vice President Harris, Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr., and President Biden at the signing of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument Proclamation on July 25, 2023.
Vice President Kamala Harris: The story of Emmett Till and the incredible bravery of Mamie Till-Mobley helped fuel the movement for civil rights in America, and their stories continue to inspire our collective fight for justice.
Our history as a nation is born of tragedy and triumph, of struggle and success. That is who we are. And as people who love our country, as patriots, we know that we must remember and teach our full history, even when it is painful — especially when it is painful.
Today, there are those in our nation who would prefer to erase or even rewrite the ugly parts of our past; those who attempt to teach that enslaved people benefitted from slavery; those who insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, who try to divide our nation with unnecessary debates.
Let us not be seduced into believing that somehow we will be better if we forget. We will be better if we remember. We will be stronger if we remember.
Because we all here know: It is only by understanding and learning from our past that we can continue to work together to build a better future.
Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr.: I’m truly humbled by this honor. You see, I was born in Mississippi. I spent my early years as a sharecropper and was focused upon filling up a nine-foot sack — focused upon my quota, not making history. From the outhouse to the White House; from a time when we lived in fear to a time when President and Vice President gave us this great hope — kept their promise by delivering — this is what America means to me: promises made, promises kept.
It has been quite a journey for me from the darkness to the light.
When I sat with my family on the night of terror — when Emmett Till, our beloved Bobo, was taken from us, taken to be tortured and brutally murder — murdered — back then, when I was overwhelmed with terror and fear of certain death in the darkness of a thousand midnights, in a pitch-black house on what some have called Dark Fear Road. Back then in the darkness, I could never imagine a moment like this: standing in the light of wisdom, grace, and deliverance.
There is something amazing you feel when you meet President Biden, like I did when he signed the Emmett Till Antilynching law — Antilynching bill into law. He welcomed me into this place of great power. I felt the power of his personal devotion — his devotion to justice, to equality, his commitment to keeping the promise of America. This came from his heart, from his soul.
God bless you, President Biden, for all you have done and will do to preserve our history.
President Joe Biden: Today, on what would have been Emmett’s 82nd birthday, we add another chapter to the story of remembrance and healing.
Just as we joined together when I signed the law in his name to make lynching a federal crime — and think how long that took for that to happen — today, we join together as I sign a proclamation designating Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument in both Illinois and in Mississippi.
At a time when there are those who seek to ban books, bury history, we’re making it clear — crystal, crystal clear – while darkness and denialism can hide much, they erase nothing. They can hide, but they erase nothing.
We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know. We have to learn what we should know. We should know about our country. We should know everything: the good, the bad, the truth of who we are as a nation. That’s what great nations do, and we are a great nation. That’s what they do.
For only with truth comes healing, justice, repair, and another step forward toward forming a more perfect union. We got a hell of a long way to go.
That’s what’s happening. That’s what’s going to happen with visitors of all backgrounds to learn the history of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley through our national monument.
Ida B. Wells once said, quote, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” The way to right wrongs is to shine a light of truth on them.
I believe if we keep pushing, we’re going to continue to make progress. We’re going to continue to make progress. And it’s already being made.