The former childhood home of Emmett Till in the South Side of Chicago has been declared a historic landmark by City Council.
Till, a Black 14-year-old, was brutally murdered and thrown into a river in Mississippi in August 1955 after being falsely accused of whistling at a white woman. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, held an open-casket funeral to expose the violence inflicted on her son, whose mutilated body was seen by more than 100,000 people at the viewing, and countless others via photographs that were published in the Chicago Defender and Jet magazine. Activist Rev. Jesse Jackson described the memorial as “the largest single civil rights demonstration in American history.”
Till-Mobley continued to live in an apartment on the second floor of the Chicago home, located at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Avenue in the Woodlawn neighborhood, until 1962. The building stands as a monument to Emmett Till’s life and to Mamie Till-Mobley’s tireless, lifelong advocacy efforts to improve the lives of Black Americans.
By designating the home as an official landmark, the city commits to protecting the structure from demolition and any renovations that would significantly alter its facade. The 2,400-square-foot Victorian house was constructed in 1895 and fell into significant disrepair in recent decades. Blacks in Green, a local nonprofit, purchased the home last year and plans to transform it into a museum.
“Achieving Landmark status for the Till-Mobley House is an important step in recognizing that Black cultural heritage sites long overlooked by the city are a vital part of Chicago’s past, present and future,” Blacks in Green founder Naomi Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The new landmark status comes on the heels of the 65th anniversary of Till’s death, August 28, 2020. As Black Lives Matter demonstrations against racist violence swept the nation last year, thousands took to the streets to remember Emmett and demand justice for the many victims of anti-Black crimes in Jim Crow America as in recent times.
“Before there was Trayvon Martin, before there was Eric Garner, there was Emmett Till,” said Jeanette Taylor, alderwoman of Chicago’s 20th ward, where the house is located, after the vote approving the designation last week. “We still have a real problem in this country of not addressing the brutality that has happened to Black folks, but also making sure we apologize and recognize it and do things to move forward. I’m excited the Emmett Till home is going to be preserved.”
The church where Till’s funeral was held, the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in the historically Black neighborhood of Bronzeville, was declared a city landmark in 2006.