National Park Service Seeks Mississippi Sites to Build Monuments to the Civil Rights Struggle

Frederick H. Lowe

The National Park Service, which manages the country’s national parks and many of its national monuments, is studying a location or locations throughout Mississippi to erect a monument or monuments to tell the state’s complicated and violent civil rights history, according to National Parks Magazine which was published in the winter of 2019.

A photograph of a smiling Emmet Till, a 14 year-old boy who was beaten to death on August 28, 1955, accompanies the magazine’s cover, which is titled “Mississippi Reckoning,”. His body was found in the Tallahatchie River in Money, Mississippi. “The National Park Service is mandated to the natural and cultural heritage of America, but currently, there are no sites in the system that protect places connected to Emmett Till — or any of Mississippi’s complicated civil rights history,” the story reported. Kate Siber, a Durango, Colorado, freelance writer, wrote that in 2017 Congress passed legislation requiring the Park Service to spend three years studying civil rights landmarks in Mississippi. The process could lead to the creation of a new national park or several of them in the state.

Mississippi is the bloody burial ground for known and unknown African Americans murdered by white racists who were found not guilty by white male juries and white-male judges. Often enough, white perpetrators of racial violence were not charged and tried. Some of the victims include Till, Medgar Evers, state field director for the NAACP. Evers was assassinated in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi home on June 12, 1963.

And the Ku Klux Klan and the police killed Civil Rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, in 1964. Their bodies were found in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi. (In the cover photo, Dr. King is holding a photo of the three men who at the time were missing.)

When Till’s severely beaten and disfigured body floated to the surface of the Tallahatchie River, police discovered the bodies of three other unidentified black men who had gone missing after suffering violent deaths. In addition, whites in Mississippi lynched 581 blacks between 1882 and 1968, the most of any state.

There is interest in a monument or monuments.

In 2018, three hundred-fifty people attended six statewide public meetings to make recommendations. One site could be Evers’ home, which is now a museum, The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation in May that would designate his home a national monument. However, monuments honoring blacks have not fared well in Mississippi. A sign marking the place where Till’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River has been replaced three times after gunmen shot it full of holes.

The article is attached to an email urging readers to donate money to the Emmett Till Interpretive Center to continue the organization’s fund-raising efforts.