Mamie Till-Mobley sculpture, memorial for son Emmett unveiled at Summit high school she attended

Unveiling comes same week as death of Carolyn Bryant Donham

Evelyn Holmes Image
Sunday, April 30, 2023
Mamie Till-Mobley sculpture, memorial for son Emmett unveiled
A sculpture of Civil Rights Movement icon Mamie Till-Mobley and a memorial for her son, Emmett Till, were unveiled at Argo Community High School.

SUMMIT, Ill. (WLS) -- A memorial honoring the mother of Emmett Till sits outside the southwest suburban high school she attended long before she became a catalyst in the Civil Rights Movement.

A sculpture in the likeness of Mamie Till-Mobley and a memorial walkway in the name of her son, Emmett, were unveiled as a part of Argo Community High School's celebration of her life and legacy in Summit.

"This is a great, great honor. She always said, 'remember the past, and educate the future,' and we see that happening today," said Ollie Gordon, a relative of Till-Mobley.

Saturday's posthumous honor celebrated the contributions of Till-Mobley, who is one of the southwest suburban high school's best-known graduates.

She was the first African-American student at the school to make the honor roll and, at the time, was only the fourth student of color to graduate from Argo.

"We want to make sure her story is ever-lasting," said Argo Community High School District 217 Superintendent Dr. William Toulios.

SEE ALSO | Emmett Till's Chicago-area cousin says 'no one now will be' held accountable after accuser's death

The sculpture and walkway face the high school, and are adjacent to the neighborhood where Mamie and Emmett once lived. The site of their former home has become a historic landmark.

"This is one of the happiest days of my life," said Thelma Edwards, a family friend of Till-Mobley's.

Till-Mobley's life changed in 1955, when her 14-year old son was abducted and murdered after he was accused of whistling at a white woman while visiting family in Mississippi.

No one was ever convicted for the teen's slaying. Saturday morning's unveiling came the same week the woman who accused Emmett of harassing her died at the age of 88.

Till's cousin, Rev. Wheeler Parker, is the last living witness to Emmett's kidnapping.

"We went to Mississippi together, and I came back without him, and I've had to live with the stories that were told that were not true," Parker said.

Till-Mobley's decision to have an open-casket funeral for her son helped spark the Civil Rights Movement and made her an agent of change.

The commissioned life-sized bronze statue was revealed to the public on Saturday. It took about a year to create, and it draws inspiration from a photo of Mamie. The work also captures the life and brutal death of Emmett Till.

"There is the barn on one side, where he was lynched, and other side, there's the historic funerary scene, which is pretty intense and incredible," said community activist Sonja Henderson.

After working as an educator and an advocate, Till-Mobley died in 2003 in Chicago.

Along with the walkway, a scholarship in Till-Mobley's name is being established for students who demonstrate a commitment to social justice and their communities.