Press Release Dec 21, 2022

National Park Service Agrees: Till Story Should Be Preserved

“This study confirms what many Americans across the country instinctively understand: the story of Emmett Till’s lynching, one of the most infamous hate crimes in American history, is nationally significant and worthy of preservation." -- NPCA's Alan Spears

WASHINGTON – Today, the National Park Service released the Mississippi Civil Rights Sites Special Resource Study, affirming that the story of Emmett Till’s murder in Mississippi is suitable for inclusion in the National Park System.

In the summer of 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till traveled from Chicago to visit family in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. A few days after his arrival, a white storekeeper named Carolyn Bryant accused him of making sexual advances towards her. Bryant’s husband and brother-in-law stormed Emmett’s uncle’s house, kidnapped Emmett, and tortured and murdered him. 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 back home in Chicago 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.

“This special resource study confirms what many Americans across the country instinctively understand: the story of Emmett Till’s lynching, one of the most infamous hate crimes in American history, is nationally significant and worthy of preservation.” said Alan Spears, National Parks Conservation Association Senior Director of Cultural Resources. “We are grateful to experts at the National Park Service who left no stone unturned in studying the people and places at the center of this story.”

“The impact Emmett Till’s brutal murder and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley’s unwavering activism had on the Civil Rights Movement and our country’s history is incalculable.” Spears continued. “A national park site that tells the Till family’s stories would help provide an honest reckoning with this shameful chapter of our history, and create a place of solemn remembrance for a 14-year-old Black boy who deserved to live.”

In 2017, Congress directed the National Park Service to conduct a special resource study of Mississippi’s nationally significant Civil Rights sites. Now five years later, experts at the National Park Service (NPS) have completed their study, determining that many of these resources in the Mississippi Delta are nationally significant, feasible and suitable for Park Service protection, and identified the need for direct NPS management of those resources. This includes, but is not limited to the following areas of the Mississippi Delta related to the lynching of Emmett Till:

  • The Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, where the trial for Emmett Till’s murder was held and where his killers went free after the jury deliberated for barely more than an hour, and The Emmett Till Interpretative Center which exists to tell the story of the Emmett Till tragedy and to point a way towards racial healing;
  • Graball Landing in Glendora, Mississippi, where Emmett Till’s maimed and disfigured body was found;
  • The Glendora Cotton Gin and adjacent community center in Glendora, Mississippi
  • Bryant’s Grocery Store in Money, Mississippi where Till and his cousins visited and where Carolyn Bryant alleged he whistled at her; and
  • The East Money Church of God in Christ cemetery in Money, Mississippi

The report states: “Ultimately, this information is provided to inform Congress and the president of the broad spectrum of options available and the communities, stakeholders, and potential partners that are critical for engagement should they choose to act on this study’s positive findings and designate these sites as a national park system unit.”

National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a National Park Service release accompanying the study: “Preserving and commemorating Mississippi civil rights sites would help ensure that these important aspects of America’s heritage, and the grave injustices that sparked them, will never be forgotten.”

The study also examines other critical, nationally significant events and landmarks in Mississippi, including sites associated with Medgar and Myrlie Evers, and the murders of civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

For years, NPCA has been working with members of the Till family and many partners to create a new park site that honors Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley and the tragedy that moved a nation and inspired us all. Learn more at www.npca.org/till. NPCA received a grant for this work from an anonymous donor.

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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 1.6 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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