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Smithsonian’s display of desecrated Emmett Till panel extended to November 2

( – It was a 1963 speech to teachers, in which African-American author, poet and activist James Baldwin said, “American history is longer, more vast, more varied, more beautiful and more terrible than anything else. what anyone has ever said.

This pointed description is what came to mind of Dr. Anthea Hartig, Elizabeth MacMillan director of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (NMAH), when she discussed expanding the exhibition to a panel in honor of Emmett Till. In recent years, this sign has been riddled with 317 bullets, demonstrating America’s continued struggle against racism, hatred and terrorism.

On display at the NMAH since September 3 (now extended to November 2), the exhibit was a stark reminder that America continues to harbor the same ailments that caused the death of the 14-year-old Chicago teenager. , who was mutilated by White Supremacists in Mississippi on August 28, 1955. Hartig says the exhibit is part of the vision established by Lonnie G. Bunch III, the first African-American secretary of the Smithsonian and the first African-American to lead the institution of 19 museums, founded in 1836.

Bunch, also founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, began his career with the Smithsonian in the late 1970s. He became a curator alongside other young black scholars, who were largely from accord with Baldwin’s point of view on American history, including Baldwin’s “Talk to Teachers” in 1963.

“So I see this powerful line as a real grip on this coat,” Hartig said in a recent interview with the Trice Edney News Wire, particularly after the creation and opening of the National Museum of History and African-American culture five years ago. “With the new mission of our American History Museum to empower people to create a fairer and more compassionate future, I see a bit of how weaving is returning, I hope, in a more holistic way to the museum. American history to represent all that America’s past is and all that it can teach us, including the lessons we still have to learn, which I think are exemplified in such a powerful, sad and poignant way in the Riverside Marker.

“As of 2008, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission erected nine historical markers to remember Till, but the signs were stolen, bullet-riddled or thrown into the river,” according to a press release from the museum. The display of the “Disfigured Historical Marker preserves the memory of Emmett Till while demonstrating the contested nature of America’s violent legacy of racism.”

The exhibit, “Reckoning with Remembrance: History, Injustice and the Murder of Emmett Till,” ends November 2, but will return as part of the museum’s offerings at a later date.

It remains in Flag Hall, a positioning which Hartig says is a testament “very powerfully and viscerally to the fact that” Emmett Till and his slave descendants are just as important as the flag itself, which was sewn in part by a female slave. , Grace Wisher.

On September 2, the day before the exhibit began, Reverend Wheeler Parker, civil rights activist and member of the Till family, and Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Money, Mississippi, teamed up with curators and officials. from the Smithsonian to hold a conversation about the murder of Emmett Till.

C-SPAN aired this panel on October 23 on American History TV on C-SPAN2. The discussion will also be available on the Smithsonian’s YouTube channel.

Emmett Till’s story has become an integral part of American history. While on a visit to see his great-uncle in Mississippi, 14-year-old Emmett Till of Chicago was brutally lynched on August 28, 1955. When his mutilated body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River, his mother, Mamie Till , insisted on an open casket funeral in Chicago. NS The magazine published a photo of Till’s mutilated body, which caused him to be seen nationwide. It was this photo and the lynching of Till that was credited as the impetus for today’s civil rights movement. A few months later, the Montgomery bus boycott was sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955.

Hartig credits Smithsonian curators Tsione Wolde-Michael, curator of African-American social justice history, and Nancy Bercaw, historian and curator, for the successful acquisition of the marker and the crucial storytelling for the NMAH.

In an editorial published in the Washington post, Wolde-Michael, Bercaw and professor at the University of Kansas, Dave Tell, author of Remembering Emmett Till, redoubles its efforts on the need to “reckon with the memory” illustrated by the exhibition of markers.

“However, as the relentless degradation of the Emmett Till markers demonstrates, these advances continue to be fiercely contested. And it remains to be seen whether these gains are permanent or if they are ultimately reversed,” the conservatives and professors wrote. Whether it’s in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, or on the National Mall, all the math work with this story and its challenges remains. Public memory is not just created by academics, museums, and governments. We are all responsible for what our nation remembers and forgets. As ‘Reckoning with Remembrance’ shows, history is an active battlefield as well as a tool for justice. “

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