March 16, 2021

Duckworth Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Designate Bronzeville Church that Held Emmett Till’s Funeral as a National Historic Site


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today introduced bipartisan legislation to designate the church that held Chicagoan Emmett Till’s pivotal funeral in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood as a national historic site. Till’s funeral was held at the neighborhood’s Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ after the 14-year-old was brutalized and lynched in Mississippi in 1955. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, made the decision to hold a public, open-casket wake to make sure the world couldn’t ignore his vicious treatment at the hands of murderers who, after being acquitted by an all-white jury, admitted their crimes. The wake was attended by thousands and sparked international discourse over his killing and racism in America.

“The Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ is both extraordinarily and heartbreakingly important to Chicago, our state and to our country’s history,” Duckworth said. “It’s time we recognize how historic sites can not only teach us about our history – but provoke us to build a more just future. By designating this church a historic site, we will help ensure that this awful chapter is not erased and that future generations of Americans can show respect to Mamie and Emmett’s stories.”

“We are 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, which will 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,’” said Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., Dr. Marvel Parker and the Till family.

Roberts Temple Church congregation stated: “As congregants of Roberts Temple and members of the Roberts Family, we strongly support this endeavor as well as the ongoing efforts by racial justice and preservation organizations to obtain federal protection for Roberts Temple.”

Duckworth’s Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley, and Roberts Temple National Historic Site Act would establish the church as a historic site to be managed by the U.S. National Park Service to ensure that the church will continue to stand and that an important part of Emmett Till’s story is preserved. Senator Duckworth was joined by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) in introducing this bipartisan legislation. Text of this bill can be found here.

The call for preservation, federal recognition and National Historic Site status for Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, as well as for sites linked to Emmett Till in Mississippi, has been spearheaded by the Till and Roberts families and various organizations. These stakeholders include the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and the National Parks Conservation Association.