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Bill would establish Emmett Till's funeral location as national historic site

Miss. senators are cosponsoring the legislation

By Mary Grace Eppes

CHICAGO — Mississippi's U.S. senators are co-sponsoring legislation to honor Emmett Till's legacy by naming Till's funeral location as a national historic site.

U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith have joined Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth to introduce legislation that would establish Chicago’s Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, the site of Emmett Till’s funeral in 1955, as a national historic site.

“I am pleased to support this legislation directing the National Park Service to establish the Roberts Temple Church of God as a national historic site,” Wicker said. “Emmett Till’s murder and the courage of Mamie Till-Mobley roused people of goodwill to action, leading to one of the most significant movements in American history. This commemoration would help preserve the Till family’s legacy for future generations.”

“Bestowing historic landmark status on Chicago’s Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ represents a great honor for the Till-Mobley family. This designation will help build on work to ensure the atrocities done to Emmitt Till, his family’s heartbreaking story and their importance to the civil rights movement is not ever forgotten,” Hyde-Smith said.

Till, a 14-year old African American boy, was murdered in August 1955 in the Mississippi Delta.

Till was a Chicago native visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, when he was accused of harassing a local white woman. A few days later, her husband and others abducted the boy, brutally beating and killing him before disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River.

His devastated mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on a public, open-casket funeral for her son, so the world could see his mutilated body and the violence inflicted on blacks in the South. Thousands attended the service. His murderers were acquitted, which became a turning point for the civil rights movement.

Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley, and Roberts Temple National Historic Site Act (S.795) would establish the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ as a historic site managed by the U.S. National Park Service. The bill also includes provisions to stabilize and restore the structure, which was included in the 
National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2020 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

“The Emmett Till Interpretive Center wants to thank Senator Wicker and Senator Hyde-Smith for their support of an Emmett Till and Mamie Till Historic Site. Working together with the Till family, we hope to save and preserve sites in Chicago and the Mississippi Delta,” said Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center.

This bill is another step in furthering Till's story across the country. The National Park Service is conducting a study of Mississippi locations that contribute to Till's legacy and the civil rights movement. 
It will be completed later this year.