New legislation calls for the Roberts Temple Church in Chicago, where Emmett Till’s open-casket funeral was held in 1955 during the height of the civil rights movement, to be designated a national monument. Photo courtesy of the city of Chicago
Feb. 28 (UPI) — New legislation would designate the Chicago church where Emmett Till‘s open-casket funeral was held in 1955 as a national monument.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., would designate the Roberts Temple Church as a national monument to “preserve, protect, and interpret history for the benefit of present and future generations.”
The bill calls the historical site an opportunity to provide lessons on “the Great Migration, the civil rights movement, the memorial service and funeral of Emmett Till, along with the courage and activism of Mamie Till-Mobley, who sought justice for her son’s brutal killing.”
Emmett Till was a 14-year-old Black teen who was abducted, tortured and shot in Mississippi in 1955 after he was accused of offending a white woman. His killers, who admitted to the lynching, were acquitted.
The Chicago church, where Till’s service was held, became a symbol of the civil rights movement after his mother decided to hold an open-casket wake to “let the world see what I’ve seen.” The 1955 memorial and extended visitation drew over 100,000 mourners.
“The Roberts Temple Church is both of extraordinary and incredibly heartbreaking historical importance to Chicago, our state and to this country, and what happened to Emmett matters both during Black History Month and each day of the year,” Duckworth said in a statement.
“By designating this church a national monument, we will help ensure that generations of Americans can come show respect to Mamie and Emmett’s stories,” Duckworth added. “It’s past time we recognize how national monuments can not only teach us about our history — but provoke us to build a more just future.”
On Monday, President Joe Biden commemorated Black History Month at a White House event, saying America is a stronger nation when it fully examines its past. During his speech, Biden talked about hosting the screening of the film Till earlier this month at the White House.
“We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know,” Biden said. “We have to learn everything. The good, the bad, the truth, and who we are as a nation.”
“We will not as a nation build a better future for America by trying to erase America’s past,” Vice President Kamala Harris added. “This month and all year around we must recognize the full arc of our nation’s history.”