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President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill will host a screening of the acclaimed “Till” movie in the East Room of the White House on Thursday evening, according to a statement Whoopi Goldberg shared with the Grio.
“Till,” follows the real story of how Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of 14 year-old lynching victim Emmett Till, ignited attention around her son’s death, which launched the modern Civil Rights Movement.
“A few years ago I changed my Facebook caption to a quote from Mamie. She said, ‘I think everybody needed to know what had happened to Emmett Till.’ That has been a charge of mine since my father passed in 2019,” Joshua Harris-Till told The Black Wall Street Times on Tuesday.
Till was tortured, mutilated, killed and thrown into the Tallahatchie River by two White men in 1955 while visiting family in Mississippi after a White woman accused him of whistling at her.
It “seems fitting that the President, who made sure the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act finally got signed into Law, [would] have the film screened at the White House,” Goldberg stated, according to the Grio’s April Ryan.
The film’s release educated a new generation about the traumatic birth of a movement for equal justice. It came amid a renewed effort to seek criminal charges and a conviction against Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who made the accusation against Till and whom local authorities never served a warrant.
No justice for Emmett Till, but story recognized at highest level
After local and federal prosecutors declined to reopen the investigation into Till’s lynching, a cousin of the family recently filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the LeFlore County, Mississippi, sheriff to serve a 1955 arrest warrant against Donham, who is now well into her 80s.
Meanwhile, after 200 failed attempts by Congress over the last Century to respond to racial terror lynchings against Black people, President Biden signed the Emmett Till AntiLynching Act into law in 2022. The law makes certain hate crimes that result in serious bodily injury or death punishable by life in prison.
“Till” didn’t receive a single Oscar this year, which some saw as shocking and others saw as unsurprising, given the Academy Awards’ reputation for ignoring films made by and about Black people.
Yet the historic White House screening represents a kind of poetic justice, according to Whoopi Goldberg.
“Especially after being snubbed this award’s season and in light of places like Florida and Texas, among others, trying to pretend this history did not happen, or that Black people were fine being treated as less than,” Goldberg told the Grio.
Notably, in 1915 a different Democratic president screened “Birth of a Nation” at the White House, a film that depicted the Ku Klux Klan as heroes and Black freedmen as savages. Over a century later, the screening of “Till” by a U.S. president shows just how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
“To know that this movie, that expertly tells this story without an excessive amount of dramatization by Hollywood, is being screened in the White House. The only thing I can truly even begin to compare it to is when the President came to Tulsa to speak about Black Wall Street,” Harris-Till told The Black Wall Street Times.
“Black history is American history, and it’s beautiful to see it front and center and not regulated to a month or a chapter.”