BRONZEVILLE — The Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, where Mamie Till-Mobley showed the world the brutality of American racism by holding an open-casket funeral for her murdered son Emmett Till, could soon be named a national historic site.
U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) introduced a bill to place the deteriorating church at 4021 S. State St. into the care of the National Park Service. They’re calling for the building to be preserved and managed by the federal government.
“The Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ is both extraordinarily and heartbreakingly important to the nation, and in many ways to the world,” Duckworth said. “Especially for today’s youth, understanding where they come from and knowing their history — as painful and traumatic as it was — is lifted up and valued by the country is important.”
Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr., Emmett Till’s cousin and last living witness to the teen’s abduction, said in a joint statement with relatives that their family is “grateful for the introduction of legislation to preserve the legacy of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley by making Roberts Temple a National Historic Site.”
Parker Jr. joined Till on his fateful trip to Mississippi. He is now the pastor of the Argo Temple Church of God in Christ in southwest suburban Summit.
Parker Jr., Dr. Marvel Parker and the Till family added that making the church a historic site would “help to fulfill Mamie’s request for my wife and I to continue her work to ensure her son’s death was not in vain,” they said.
Last year, the Roberts Temple church was named one of the nation’s “11 most endangered historic places” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The church “has severe structural issues,” is rarely used by the congregation and needs funding to be properly renovated, the organization said at the time.
Legislators intend to get the bipartisan bill passed during this meeting of Congress, which ends in January 2023, Duckworth said. If passed, a plan for creating the national historic site must be in place no later than three years after funds are approved for the designation.
The Illinois senators were joined by Sens. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) in introducing the bill.
Duckworth said she is “humbled” that the Till family continues to partner with her and other national leaders, as they work to recognize sites honoring Emmett’s life and brutal death — both in Chicago and Mississippi.
Plans are also underway to turn the Till family residence in Woodlawn, recently named a Chicago Landmark, into a museum and cultural campus.
However, building owner Naomi Davis told the Sun-Times Ald. Sophia King’s (4th) proposal to ban new cultural spaces in most residences would “have a damning effect” on efforts to repurpose historic homes if passed.
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