Mississippi sites now part of new national monument to honor Till and Till-Mobley

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Nearly 50 years after the murder of Emmett Till, President Biden designated the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument Tuesday. This new national park site will span locations in two states, Mississippi and Illinois, telling the story of the murder of Emmett Till and its wide-ranging impact on the Civil Rights Movement in America.

For years, the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have worked with Emmett Till’s cousin Reverend Wheeler Parker, the last surviving witness to his abduction, and his wife Dr. Marvel Parker, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, Latham and Watkins, LLP and the Mound Bayou Museum of African American History and Culture for a park that will honor the memory of the Till family.  The Till family and partners shared a vision for a park that would properly honor the memory of Emmett Till and describe the ripple effect his murder had on our country.

Recognized as one of our country’s most infamous hate crimes, the widely publicized murder of Emmett Till and his mother’s calls for justice were major catalysts for the Civil Rights Movement in America. In the summer of 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till traveled from Chicago to visit family in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. A few days after his arrival, a white storekeeper named Carolyn Bryant accused him of making advances towards her. Bryant’s husband and brother-in-law stormed Emmett’s uncle’s house, kidnapped Emmett, and tortured and murdered him. His beaten, disfigured body was found days later, floating in the Tallahatchie River.

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Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on a public, open-casket funeral at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, saying “Let the world see what they did to my boy.” Photos of Emmett’s body were published around the country in Jet magazine and other major publications, spurring outrage and catalyzing the Civil Rights Movement.

With the support of local Black leaders like Dr. T.R.M. Howard and NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers, Mamie Till-Mobley traveled to Tallahatchie County for the trial for her son’s killers. Despite his mother’s powerful testimony, Emmett’s killers were acquitted and went free. They later bragged about committing the murder in a controversial magazine interview.

Today, Emmett’s story serves as a powerful reminder of the evils of racism and how it is embedded in our history and culture.

This new national park site will protect the following important historic sites in Mississippi and Illinois that are key to understanding the story of this injustice:

  • The Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi where the trial for Emmett Till’s murder was held and where his killers went free after only 67 minutes of jury deliberations.
  • Roberts Temple Church of God In Christ in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, where Emmett Till’s open-casket funeral was held.
  • Graball Landing on the banks of the Tallahatchie River in Glendora, Mississippi, where Emmett Till’s maimed and disfigured body may have been pulled from the water.

NPCA has long been a leader in campaigns to designate national park sites dedicated to diverse history, including the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and Stonewall National Monument. At NPCA, we believe we must expand our national parks system to tell the full American story, which includes stories like Emmett Till’s and beyond. Our parks unite us and have helped shape who we are as a nation and continue to move us forward.

Statement of Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for The National Parks Conservation Association:
“Throughout American history, there are few stories as heart wrenching as the murder of Emmett Till. It is a story that lays bare the brutality of systemic racism and injustice for the world to see.

“But it is also a story of determination. This is a story of a brave young mother who experienced a parent’s worst nightmare but found the strength and power to rise up and shine a light on injustice as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Mamie Till-Mobley galvanized a movement and inspired a nation.

“Yet despite the progress we have made since 1955, the work is not done. The America we live in still bears many of the scars of the past, and some of our darkest history repeats itself. We still see echoes of Emmett’s story and blatant racial injustice in our society today, and as national park advocates, we are committed to doing our part to fight it. Black Lives Matter. They matter in our homes, they matter in our stores, our cities, and yes, in our national parks.

“The National Park Service cannot bring the Till family the justice they were so cruelly denied in 1955. But with this new national park site, our leaders are bringing this story back into the light so that we may all continue to learn and grow from it, just as we have at Birmingham, Stonewall, and other national monuments.

“We commend the Biden administration on today’s national park designation and are grateful to Emmett Till’s family members for their tireless work to make this national park site a reality. As America’s greatest storyteller, the Park Service will help protect and interpret the history at the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, so no one ever forgets their names.”