WIN: Senators Durbin and Duckworth Support National Historic Monument Status for Roberts Temple Church

Preservation Partners at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ on October 21, 2022. Photo Credit: Kelly Paras / Landmarks Illinois

“Several U.S. officials on October 21 visited the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ where leaders and historians gathered to share the historic significance of the church that held the funeral of Emmett Till.

“The meeting came as the church marks its 100th Anniversary in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.

“A Chicago landmark, the church is currently undergoing renovations as Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland seek to designate it as a National Historic Monument. The designation would offer the church federal support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the National Park Service for its role in the Civil Rights Movement.

“In addition to Durbin, Congressmen Bobby Rush and Danny K. Davis also attended the event.

“During her visit, Haaland said she met some of Till’s relatives and church officials. She also talked about the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ’s rich history.

“‘These walls have borne witness to say much. That’s the meaning of community and I see it here in abundance,’ Haaland said. ‘I’m here because this church is a key part of our nation’s history.’

“As part of the designation process, U.S. officials visited the church to gather input from residents about the church’s pivotal role after Till was murdered in 1955.

“Maurice Cox, Chicago’s first Black Commissioner of Planning and Development, pointed out other Chicago landmarks in the Black community that are tied to Till’s life and death. He mentioned the original building of the Chicago Defender in Bronzeville and the Johnson Publishing Company building on Michigan Avenue. Both publications were the first to publish photos of Till’s mutilated face. He also mentioned Till’s home in Woodlawn that became a Chicago landmark in 2021.

“‘All the Till sites in Chicago and Mississippi matter because they are physical reminders of the people and events that changed the course of history,’ Cox said.

“‘There is no other place in the United States that bears witness to how the galvanization of the Civil Rights Movement impacted not only the United States but the world,’ said Sherry Williams, founder and president of the Bronzeville Historical Society. ‘I encourage madame secretary to bring a message of love and encouragement to our president to designate Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ a national monument.’

Ward Miller was invited to speak at the event and shared Preservation Chicago’s decades long effort to recognize, honor and protect the memory of Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley through Chicago Landmark Designations. Preservation Chicago played an important role in the landmark designation of Roberts Temple in 2006.

More recently, Preservation Chicago played an essential role in coordinating all the stakeholders and ensuring that Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Home finally became a Designated Chicago Landmark in 2021.

We continue to advocate to designate the McCosh Elementary/Emmett Till Academy public school as a Designated Chicago Landmark and hope that stakeholders will move forward with an Emmett Till Memorial Path connecting his home and school.


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