President Biden signs proclamation for Emmett Till National Monument in Chicago, Mississippi

ByJessica D'Onofrio, Cate Cauguiran, and Jasmine Minor WLS logo
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Biden signs proclamation for Emmett Till national monument
The Emmett Till National Monument was established by President Joe Biden Tuesday, on what would have been Till's 82nd birthday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- President Joe Biden established a national monument honoring Chicagoan and civil rights icon Emmett Till and his mother Tuesday on what would have been the teen's 82nd birthday.

President Biden signed a proclamation to establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument across three sites in Illinois and Mississippi.

One site will include the Roberts Temple Church of Christ in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, where thousands gathered to mourn Till's death.

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

The church will also get funding toward its preservation, and have a visitor center built.

"It's very significant because it is a part of history, and you cannot deny history," said Pastor Cleven Wardlow Jr. "It will honor the memory of what happened. It will honor the memory of bringing it all back and thousands, millions will come to the place where Emmett Till was funeralized [sic]."

Roberts Temple Church of Christ in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, where thousands gathered to mourn Emmitt Till's death at an open casket funeral, is now a landmark.

Pastor Wardlow said the funding will be used to restore and preserve the church.

"They're preparing to bring the church back to the 1955 era," he said. "When they walk in the church, they will see the old stairway, they will see the old pew. They will actually almost relive what happened."

It also means Till's story will get to carry on for generations to come.

"By having this designation happen, we are now able to fund the reservation, the preservation and the storytelling, so that we can educate our nation on how important this site is," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois.

The Black teenager from Chicago was murdered in 1955 after he was accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi.

President Biden is establishing a national monument honoring Chicagoan Emmett Till and his mother.

Till's best friend, younger cousin and witness to his abduction, the Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr. introduced the president Tuesday at the White House.

Members of Till's family were among the estimated 60 guests at the White House event.

"Back then, in the darkness, I could never imagine a moment like this, standing in the light of wisdom, grace and deliverance," Parker said.

Biden's decision is important and life-changing for Parker, who was lying next to Till when he was taken.

"Taken to be tortured, brutally murdered," Parker said.

He recently spoke to "Good Morning America" about his memories.

"How could that happen in America? But it happened," Rev. Parker said. "If you didn't live during that time or experience what I'm talking about, you have no idea it means, what it was like. You could be killed for anything and nobody is going to say anything to help you."

Emmett Till remembered in Chicago ahead of what would have been 82nd birthday

Till was tortured, beaten with a pistol and forced to carry a 74-pound fan before being shot in the head and left in a river.

"It's just barbaric, barbaric, what happened," Biden said. "Another hero in this story, the Black press."

Till's story made national headlines as Black newspapers printed open casket photos of his body at the demand on his mother.

"I was overwhelmed with terror and fear of certain death in the darkness of a 1,000 midnights," Parker said.

Those nights now have a ray of hope for others like Duckworth, who see this moment as a long time coming.

"Hiding these types of truths does not make it go away," she said.

The monument will protect places that are central to the story of Till's life and death at age 14, the acquittal of his killers, and his mother's activism, which helped catalyze the civil rights movement.

In addition to the Chicago site, the other two monument sites will be in Mississippi, at Graball Landing in Glendora and the Tallahatchie County Second District Courthouse in Sumner. The courthouse is where Till's murderers were wrongfully acquitted by an all-white jury.

Graball landing is believed to be the site where Till's body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River.

No timeline has been announced on when the monuments will be built.