Press Release Oct 21, 2022

Secretary Haaland, Park Advocates Meet at Emmett Till Funeral Site

Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on a public, open-casket funeral for her son at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, saying “Let the world see what they did to my boy.”

CHICAGO – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association is proud to join Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for a community meeting at Roberts Temple Church of God In Christ in Bronzeville, the site of Emmett Till’s funeral nearly 70 years ago.

Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ is a key part of the Emmett Till chapter of American history. For years, NPCA has joined partners including the National Trust for Historic Preservation in advocating for a national park site that includes Roberts Temple Church of God In Christ and other important landmarks in Mississippi that are crucial to telling the story of Emmett Till and his mother, activist Mamie Till-Mobley.

In the summer of 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till traveled from Chicago to visit family in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. Racists kidnapped, tortured, and murdered Emmett. His beaten, disfigured body was found days later, floating in the Tallahatchie River.

Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on a public, open-casket funeral at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, saying “Let the world see what they did to my boy.” Photos of Emmett’s body were published around the country in Jet magazine and other major publications, spurring outrage and galvanizing the Civil Rights Movement.

“The impact of Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ on our civil rights history is unmistakable,“ said Alan Spears, Senior Director for Cultural Resources at the National Parks Conservation Association.

"If these walls could talk, they would bear witness to the funeral of Emmett Till. Thousands of mourners flocked to the church to pay their respects before the body of a fourteen-year-old boy who had gone to Mississippi to visit family and come back in a casket. It was Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett’s grieving mother, who had the courage to insist that casket remain open for the funeral so the world could see what hatred had done to her son. Photos of Emmett Till’s brutalized body and news of this shocking hate crime soon spread like wildfire, catalyzing the Civil Rights Movement.” Spears continued.

“The National Park Service is one of America’s greatest storytellers, and as such has a pivotal role to play in helping enhance public understanding of our shared history. We are heartened by Secretary Haaland’s visit to Roberts Temple Church of God In Christ. We fully support designating a national park site that will help tell the stories of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley and ensure that we will never forget their names.”

The meeting is open to the public, and will include honored guests like Reverend Wheeler Parker, a Civil Rights Movement activist who is Emmett Till’s cousin and the sole surviving witness to his abduction, as well as Representatives Bobby L. Rush (D-IL-1) and Danny K. Davis (D-IL-7). Civil Rights Movement activist Dr. Marvel McCain Parker, Reverend Parker’s wife, will open the forum, and Pastor Elder Cleven Wardlow will also make remarks. Other noteworthy guests include parishioners of Roberts Temple Church of God In Christ, Department of Interior senior staff, and representatives from NPCA and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.5 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org

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