Three sites where key events occurred during Emmett Till’s lynching, murder, and funeral have now been designated as a national monument.
The proclamation creating the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, which is now the National Park Service’s 425th unit, was signed by President Joe Biden on the 82nd anniversary of Till’s birthday — July 25. The national monument includes two sites in Mississippi and one in Chicago.
“President Biden’s establishment of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument further cements Emmett and Mamie’s roles as heroes in America’s enduring pursuit of ‘a more perfect Union’ and marks an important step in telling a more complete story of the African-American struggle for civil rights,” Chuck Sams, director of the National Park Service (NPS), said in a statement. “Protecting these sites and stories helps ensure that the sacrifices borne by Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley will live on in public memory.”
Importantly, numerous partners — including the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, the National Park Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, and farmer Walker Sturdivant — played key roles in the years-long process of preparing the properties for inclusion in the National Park System.
Till’s Lynching, Death, And The Aftermath
In the summer of 1955, when he was 14 years old, Till traveled from Chicago to rural Mississippi to visit relatives.
On August 28, 1955, Till allegedly whistled at a white woman. He was then kidnapped, tortured, and murdered, the NPS explains. Despite the grisly nature of his death, Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on an open-casket funeral near their hometown of Chicago.
“Her brave decision let the world see the racist violence inflicted upon her son and set the Civil Rights Movement into motion,” the NPS continues. “Efforts by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Black press, and others to help Till-Mobley investigate and amplify her son’s story caused the world to bear witness to the racially motivated violence and injustice that many Black people endured in the Jim Crow South.”
Although two white men eventually stood trial for Till’s lynching, they were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury. No one has ever been held accountable for Till’s death.
How To Visit Emmett Till And Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument
There are two parts to the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument.
The Mississippi unit includes the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, where the men accused of lynching Till were tried and acquitted.
Tours begin across the street at the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, an official nonprofit partner of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument. While at the center, visitors can “experience local efforts to support community healing through art and storytelling,” the NPS explains.
The second part of the Mississippi unit is Graball Landing in Glendora, which is where Till’s body is believed to have been recovered from the Tallahatchie River. A memorial sign installed in 2008 at Graball Landing to commemorate Till’s killing has been repeatedly stolen and subsequent signs have been riddled with bullet holes.
Critically, now that the site is considered federal property, any future vandalism or theft will be investigated by federal law enforcement rather than local police, said Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, according to CNBC.
The Illinois unit of the national monument is Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, which is where Till’s funeral was held. Since the church is still active, public access is limited to the exterior of the building.
Visitor information is located at Pullman National Historical Park, 11 miles from the church.
You can learn more about the two units, including how to visit both, at the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument’s Plan Your Visit webpage.