CLEVELAND, Miss. — On July 25 President Joe Biden signed a proclamation establishing the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument. The proclamation was signed on what would have been Emmett Till’s 82nd birthday.
The National Park Service summarizes the national significance of the Till story on the Monument’s website: “In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till traveled to Money, Mississippi, to visit relatives. He was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered after reportedly whistling at a white woman. His 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 Till National Monument recognizes three historic sites in Mississippi and Illinois that are significant to the Till story. Various organizations have led advocacy efforts to establish the Till National Monument, including The Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute in Illinois, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center and the Emmett Till INTREPID Center in Mississippi, and the National Parks Conservation Association in Washington, DC.
“The Mississippi commemoration event brought national and community stakeholders together to honor the memory of Emmett Till and bravery of Mamie Till-Mobley,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, executive director of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and director of The Delta Center at Delta State University. “As a National Park Service partner representing the people of the Mississippi Delta, we proudly support the Till National Monument.”
The Mississippi sites are located in the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, including the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, where the trial of Emmett Till’s murderers took place in September, 1955, and Graball Landing, where Emmett Till’s body was found in the Tallahatchie River. On August 28, U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior Shannon Estenoz, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Senator David Jordan, and local leaders joined National Park Service representatives to commemorate the Till Monument at Graball Landing.
The Illinois site is Chicago’s Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, located in Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area, where Mamie Till-Mobley allowed the open casket funeral of her son in September 1955, a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. On August 1, the National Park Service commemorated the Illinois sites with various officials attending, including U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Congresswoman Robin Kelly, and former Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush.
“It makes us realize that it is so important to tell the real story, the whole story,” said Bernard Turner, executive director of the Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area. “During the Alliance of National Heritage Areas Spring Meeting in 2022, I had the opportunity to visit the Emmett Till sites in Mississippi. Having grown up hearing about Emmett Till’s tragic story, it was particularly moving to be in that space and hear some of the details not added to history books.”
National Heritage Areas are Congressionally designated, lived-in landscapes that tell and preserve America’s cultural heritage stories in partnership with the National Park Service and other local and regional collaborators. To learn more about Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, visit www.msdeltaheritage.com. To learn more about Bronzeville Black Metropolis National Heritage Area, visit www.blackmetropolis.org.