Chicago church that hosted Emmett Till’s funeral named among endangered historic U.S. sites

What you need to know about Emmett Till

CHICAGO — Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, where 14-year-old Emmett Till was eulogized over the course of three days in 1955 and an estimated 100,000 people viewed his open casket, was listed Thursday among the most endangered historic U.S. sites.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation included the church in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood on its annual list, citing the “pivotal events in American history” that occurred there for galvanizing the U.S. civil rights movement.

Till, who was visiting family near Money, Mississippi, in August 1955, had been accused of whistling at a white woman and was brutally beaten and lynched by white men who were later acquitted despite eyewitness testimony linking them to his murder, The Associated Press reported.

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Two men were later acquitted on murder charges, and a grand jury refused to indict them on kidnapping charges, USA Today reported.

The church’s inclusion on the D.C. nonprofit’s list comes exactly 65 years and one day after those acquittals, an anniversary that coincided with a grand jury’s decision in Louisville, Kentucky, on Wednesday to not charge three officers in the March 13 shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT and aspiring nurse who was killed in her home.

According to USA Today, Till’s family and representatives of the church issued a statement commending the church’s inclusion on the list for its potential to “raise much-needed awareness to the condition of the iconic Civil Rights site and accelerate efforts to stabilize and rehabilitate the building.”

Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., Till’s cousin and the last living witness to the events of 1955, told USA Today that he is hopeful the recognition will shine a much-needed spotlight on the landmark.

“I could remember as if it was yesterday what his mother said: ‘I hope you did not die in vain.’ And that has stuck with me,” Parker said. “This effort that they’ve been doing is a reminder that Emmett Till speaks from the grave. By them putting this out on the national register, I think it’s a reminder, and she would be very happy to know that something is being done to depict what racism was like then.”

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Thousands gathered outside the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood on Sept. 6, 1955, as pallbearers carried the body of Emmett Till, 14, who was murdered while visiting family in Mississippi.
Thousands gathered outside the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood on Sept. 6, 1955, as pallbearers carried the body of Emmett Till, 14, who was murdered while visiting family in Mississippi. (The Associated Press)