CHICAGO – Sixty-eight years ago, America was forced to confront racial hatred at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ.
The mutilated body of 14-year-old Emmett Till was placed in an open casket — an insistence of his grieving mother. What the world saw propelled the movement for civil rights.
“The power of the open casket changed not only our nation but changed the world,” said former Congressman Bobby Rush.
On Tuesday, Aug. 1, the Bronzeville Church celebrated its new status as a National Park District site.
“It is estimated that thousands of people came to this very church, the visitation, countless photos, coverage to see what we saw,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. “Today, the story of Emmett Till serves as a marker, as a symbol of not just how far we’ve come, much just how much more work we have to do.”
The church, along with sites in Mississippi where Till was abducted, tortured, and murdered, comprise the national monument.
“We ought never hide from the truth. Never. No matter how painful that truth is. We must embrace it,” said Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.
The memorial is named for Till and his mother, Mami Till-Mobley.
“This story is so painful, but it must be told. That’s what Mami Till-Mobley wanted. She wanted this nation to be unable to look away,” said Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland.
Added Congressman Jonathan Jackson: “May future generations of 14-year-old children come by the Church of God in Christ and understand that you do not remove the ancient landmarks of our history.”
The national monument status should help fund costly renovations at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. Still, officials say acknowledging the church’s role in the Civil Rights movement means much more.