PRESIDENT BIDEN DESIGNATES EMMETT TILL & MAMIE TILL-MOBLEY NATIONAL MONUMENT
Commentary from the cousin and last living witness to 14-year old Emmett Till’s abduction, along with key perspectives from the coalition of partners who advocated for the newly named multi-state national monument.
Washington, DC (July 25, 2023) – Timed to what would have been Emmett Till’s 82nd birthday, President Joe Biden will leverage his executive authority to create the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, which includes Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, Illinois; the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi; and Graball Landing on the banks of the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi. This Order brings to reality an overdue national recognition of Emmett Till’s life and legacy, along with his mother Mamie Till Mobley who courageously catalyzed the American civil rights movement.
At the Presidential signing was Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr., cousin and last-living witness of Emmett Till’s kidnapping, along with representatives from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Emmett Till Interpretive Center, Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley Institute, National Park Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association, and others.
In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till left Chicago to visit family in the Mississippi Delta, where he was abducted and lynched on August 28. Emmett’s murder shocked the conscience of the nation and illuminated the impact of racial violence – but only after his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, bravely held an open casket funeral for her son at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago. The subsequent trial and acquittal of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant for Emmett’s murder, held at the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi, further demonstrated the injustice of the time.
“It’s been my life’s work to tell the truth of what happened to Emmett,” said Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr., cousin and last living witness of Emmett Till’s kidnapping. “This national monument designation makes certain that Emmett Till’s life and legacy, along with his mother Mamie Till-Mobley’s social action and impact, will live on and be used to inspire others to create a more just and equitable society. We thank President Biden for codifying the national monument and are heartened to know these places will foster empathy, understanding and healing for years to come.”
A consortium of local and national partners has worked together to advocate for the preservation and documentation of sites connected to the Till family legacy.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has provided technical preservation support and $750,000 in critical grant funding to aid in the rescue of sites important to the Till legacy.
“Imbued in these now permanently protected buildings and landscapes are the unspeakable crimes of racial violence, and the tireless strength of Mamie Till Mobley who harnessed her grief in pursuit of social justice,” said Brent Leggs, executive director, African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Through historic preservation, this multiracial coalition of partners will continue its work to uplift this new national monument and secure the resources and investment needed to ensure the site’s future.”
The Action Fund and its signature partner, Mellon Foundation, will together invest an additional $5 million to provide specialized preservation expertise to ensure that Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ is restored for continued use by the congregation and interpreted for local, national, and global audiences.
“As younger generations of Americans learn them for the first time, Emmet Till’s and Mamie Till Mobley’s stories remain central to our effort to make a more racially just United States,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation. “We at Mellon are steadfast in our support of this national monument and the opportunities it provides for reparative learning, public engagement, and the crucial collective work we must undertake to end race-based hatred and violence in our country.”
Executive Director of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley Institute and wife to Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr., Dr. Marvel Parker has led the effort to restore and interpret the history of Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. “As Director of the Preserve Roberts Temple Initiative, I want to thank President Biden, Elder Cleven Wardlow, Bishop Edwin Walker, the Roberts Family and our partners. This Designation is the culmination of our extensive collaborative work to make this historical landmark a part of The Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley legacy.”
“After 15 years of hard work, we have finally achieved a designation that we believe is pivotal to our nation’s story,” said Patrick Weems, executive director, Emmett Till Interpretive Center. “The lynching of Emmett Till and the courage of Mamie Till Mobley served as a springboard to the modern Civil Rights Movement, and preserving this history in perpetuity will serve as a continual act of restorative justice. We extend our deepest gratitude to the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors, and Congressman Bennie Thompson for championing this vision of reconciliation, which has now become a national monument.”
There are many local and statewide partners who have been integral to ensuring the Till legacy is protected. This coalition of partners thank President Biden for his leadership and believe this milestone is an important step towards the ongoing work to restore, uplift and interpret the Till family legacy. To learn more about this effort, visit www.savingplaces.org/till.
About the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American resilience, activism, and achievement. Visit savingplaces.org/
About the Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley Institute
The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, a non-profit organization, is engaged in education, research and social justice advocacy. We are dedicated to preserving the memory and historical significance of the life and death of Emmett Louis Till, and preserving the social action legacy of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to foster educational opportunities and civic engagement among youth. Our focus is on funding research, education and public programs aimed at encouraging enlightened participation in the democratic process and working to build and maintain a civil society.
About the Interpretive Center
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center was formed to confront the brutal truth of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta and to seek justice for the Till family and Delta community. The Center aims to tell the story of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, as an act of restorative justice to create the conditions necessary to begin the process of racial healing in Mississippi and across the nation. For more information about the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, visit https://www.emmett-till.org or follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/tillcenter), Twitter @emmetillcenter, or Instagram @tillnationalpark.
About the National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. Visit SavingPlaces.org | @savingplaces.
About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.