WOODLAWN — City Council voted to designate the historic Emmett Till residence in Woodlawn as a Chicago landmark Wednesday.
The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House, 6427 S. St. Lawrence Ave., was the home of the 14-year-old Chicagoan killed by white supremacists in Mississippi 65 years ago. Till lived with his mother on the second floor, while his uncle and cousins lived on the first floor.
On Aug. 24, 1955, Till and his cousins visited a general store owned by Roy Bryant in Money, Mississippi. Roy’s wife Carolyn Bryant was tending the store that day.
Days after Carolyn accused Till of whistling at her, Roy and his half-brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Till and forced him to carry a cotton gin wheel with barbed wire to the Tallahatchie River.
Roy and Milam tortured Till before shooting him in the head and throwing his body — tied to the cotton gin wheel — into the river.
Till’s death, and Till-Mobley’s decision to display her son’s brutalized body at an open-casket funeral in Bronzeville, helped spark the Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s.
Landmark status ensures the facade and roofline of the brick two-flat cannot be altered without approval from the city’s landmarks commission, Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller said in September. The organization worked with Till’s family to secure the landmark designation.
With February just days away, City Council’s approval allows Chicagoans to “celebrate Black History Month with this greatest of African American icons at the forefront,” said Naomi Davis, founder and CEO of Blacks in Green. The nonprofit purchased the home — which is down the street from Blacks in Green’s Mamie Till-Mobley Forgiveness Garden — in October.
Davis intends to turn the property into a museum. She was born the day before Till was killed, and her mother was born and raised about 10 miles from Money in Minter City, Mississippi, she said.
“We of a certain age are accustomed to going down South in the summer. It’s an African American tradition,” Davis said. “In [Till’s] case, that African American tradition resulted in tragedy — but not for nothing.”
The landmark status honors “the history of the murder that became a movement and is now becoming a museum, so that we can make sure that our generations to come understand the greatness of the Great Migration strivers who moved North into these cities,” Davis said.
With the landmark designation, the St. Lawrence Avenue home joins other local institutions and policy decisions in honoring the Till family.
Till attended McCosh Elementary at 6543 S. Champlain Ave, which was later renamed the Emmett Louis Till Math & Science Academy.
A seven-mile stretch of 71st Street is designated Honorary Emmett Till Road, while Mamie Till Mobley Park is located on the 6400 block of S. Ellis Ave.
The Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ at 4021 S. State St., where Till’s open-casket funeral was held, received landmark status in 2006.
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