Emmett Till National Monument Will Include Chicago Church That Hosted Teen’s Funeral
Excerpts from blockclubchicago.org
GRAND BOULEVARD — Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, the site of Emmett Till’s open-casket funeral, will be included in a national monument set to be created by President Joe Biden on the anniversary of Till’s birth.
Roberts Temple Church, 4021 S. State St., will be preserved as part of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, according to the Associated Press. Till, a 14-year-old Chicagoan, was lynched by white supremacists in Mississippi nearly 70 years ago.
Two sites in Mississippi — Graball Landing near Glendora, where Till’s body was discovered after being dumped in the Tallahatchie River, and the courthouse in Sumner where a jury of white men acquitted Till’s killers — will also be included in the monument.
A Flash Point For The Civil Rights Movement
On Aug. 20, 1955, Till left the Englewood train station on 63rd Street to visit his family in Mississippi. Till visited a general store owned by Roy Bryant in Money, Mississippi, on Aug. 24, where Bryant’s wife Carolyn Bryant, accused Till of whistling at her.
Bryant and his brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Till in the early morning on Aug. 28, 1955, before shooting him in the head and throwing his body in the Tallahatchie River. His body was pulled from the river near Graball Landing on Aug. 31, 1955.
Tallahatchie County Sheriff Clarence Strider — an open racist who was the first local official to hear about the discovery of Till’s body — pressured Till’s family to bury him immediately.
Till-Mobley’s refusal, and her decision to instead display her son’s brutalized body at an open-casket funeral, is credited as a springboard for the Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s
Till-Mobley chose to hold the public funeral at Roberts Temple Church, which was Chicago’s first Church of God in Christ and is considered the denomination’s “Mother Church” in northern Illinois, according to a 2005 city report.
The funeral, held on Sept. 3, 1955, drew 2,000 mourners inside the Bronzeville church, with thousands more gathering outside. Bishop Isaiah Roberts, son of church founder William Roberts, presided over the ceremony as Bishop Louis Henry Ford eulogized Till.
Tens of thousands of people are estimated to have viewed Till’s body over the next three days before he was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery in south suburban Alsip.
Bryant and Milam went to trial on murder charges at the Sumner, Mississippi courthouse on Sept. 19, 1955. Within days, an all-white jury acquitted them. A grand jury declined to indict the killers on lesser charges later that year.
Bryant and Milam admitted to killing Till in a 1956 article and were paid a reported $4,000 for their story. A 1955 warrant for Till’s accuser, Carolyn Bryant, was never served; juries declined to indict her in 2007 and 2022. She died in April at 88.
‘An Active House of Worship’ Becomes A National Monument
Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin sponsored a 2021 bill that would have named Roberts Temple Church its own national monument. That bill stalled in the Senate before Duckworth reintroduced it this year.
“Roberts Temple Church of God In Christ is of both extraordinary and incredibly heartbreaking historical importance to Chicago, our state and to this country,” Duckworth said Monday.
The Till monument’s creation is important as right-wingers attempt “to whitewash our nation’s history and erase the devastating legacies of slavery and lynchings on Black Americans,” she said.
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