“A years-long journey to honor a 14-year-old child brutally murdered by racism has ended.
“It was a journey to acknowledge Emmett Till, and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, whose selfless decision to show the world what racism looks like sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
“The City Council on Wednesday passed an ordinance landmarking Till’s childhood home at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Ave. in West Woodlawn, where he’d lived before that fateful trip Down South in August 1955, that ended with his body being pulled from the Tallahatchie River.
“Preservationists and the Till family won their battle just in time for Black History Month.
“‘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,’ said Naomi Davis, founder and CEO of the building’s nonprofit owner, Blacks in Green, which plans to convert the brick two-flat into a museum.
“The building, at risk of deterioration or demolition after failure of previous landmark efforts, had been purchased in 2019 by a developer unaware of its history. Blacks In Green bought the 125-year-old building from Blake McCreight of BMW Properties in October.
“It’s where Till and his mother lived in August 1955, on the second floor, with other aunts and uncles in the first-floor and basement units. He left there for a train trip to visit family in Money, Mississippi, where he was kidnapped by white men from his uncle’s home on Aug. 28, 1955, for allegedly whistling at a white woman at a grocery store.
“Till’s body was recovered on Aug. 31, 1955, barbed wire wrapped around his neck, face beaten beyond recognition, his body weighted down in the river with a cotton gin fan.
“The lynching of the 14-year-old — whose confessed murderers were acquitted at trial — lit a fire under the Civil Rights Movement. It was cited by Rosa Parks in her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus in December 1955, triggering the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
“That boycott would be led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in a famed 1963 sermon, evoked ‘the crying voice of a little Emmett C. Till, screaming from the rushing waters in Mississippi.’
“It was Preservation Chicago that spearheaded the years-long effort to save the building, and its director of community engagement, Mary Lu Seidel, who had immersed herself in Till’s life to draft all supportive documentation undergirding the ordinance, cried when Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, ‘Hearing no objections, so ordered,’ and the ordinance passed.
“Another behind-the-scenes player in the effort was Jonathan Solomon, director of the department of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago.
“‘Preservation Chicago is elated. This is a remarkable day, a day of celebration as we enter Black History Month,” said Ward Miller, the group’s executive director. ‘We were honored to help in recognizing this home as a landmark, pushing for its designation for so many years. We are humbled by the experience. This site of reverence and remembrance will continue to endure long into the future.’
“Blacks In Green, which promotes the design and development of green, self-sustaining, mixed-income Black communities and land stewardship, has launched an $11 million fundraising campaign for what will be called ‘The Till-Mobley Great Migration Museum, Garden and Theater.’ It is working to secure an adjacent lot to expand the campus.
“In December 2019, the nonprofit purchased a nearby parcel at 6354 S. St. Lawrence Ave. and established the Mamie Till-Mobley Forgiveness Garden.
“Forgiveness, after all, begins with acknowledgement.” (Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, 1/27/21)
Emmett Till childhood home now an official city landmark; The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House in West Woodlawn became an official Chicago landmark after an expedited City Council vote Wednesday. It culminates years-long efforts to landmark the home of the teen whose 1955 lynching sparked the Civil Rights Movement, Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, 1/27/21
Landmark Designation Report, Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House, 6427 S. St. Lawrence Avenue, November 5, 2020, City of Chicago. Research and writing by Mary Lu Seidel, Preservation Chicago; and Jonathan Solomon, Architect, Associate Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (volunteers) & Matt Crawford, City of Chicago (Project Manager)
Emmett Till’s Former Home, Now A Chicago Landmark, Will Become A Museum; Till’s brutal death at the hands of white supremacists helped spark the Civil Rights Movement. The Woodlawn home where he lived with his mother was designated a Chicago landmark Wednesday, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 1/27/21
House of civil rights icon Emmett Till designated as a landmark; “Emmett Till’s brutal death was part of the profound ‘spark’ that influenced so many leaders in the efforts towards equality and confronting injustice in America,” said Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller, Anagha Srikanth, The Hill, 1/28/21
Emmett Till’s home gains landmark status and will turn into museum; Chicago city council granted home occupied by 14-year-old who was lynched in 1955 and his mother landmark status, Kenya Evelyn, The Guardian, 1/28/21
Emmett Till’s Chicago Home Granted Official Landmark Status So His Story Won’t Be ‘Forgotten’; The 14-year-old was brutally murdered by white men in 1955 after a woman falsely accused him of lewd behavior, Benjamin VanHoose, People Magazine, 1/28/21