Emmett Till’s home in Woodlawn passes landmarks commission

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EMMETT TILL’S HOME in Woodlawn moved one step closer to becoming a Chicago landmark after a recommendation by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. (Photo by Keith Chambers)

Crusader Staff Report

The home of murdered teenager Emmett Till has moved a step closer to becoming a Chicago landmark. On November 5, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, unanimously recommended the two-flat home in Woodlawn for landmark status.

The proposal now moves to Chicago’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards, whose 19 members include seven Black aldermen.

The recommendation will then go to the City Council for final approval.

City officials are moving quickly to grant historic status to the home, located at 6427 S. St. Lawrence, several blocks away from the Crusader office.

Last summer, a letter submitted by Alderman Jeanette Taylor (20th) led the commission to pass a preliminary recommendation amid concerns that the building might be demolished under the previous owner.

A Chicago landmark cannot be demolished or altered on the outside. To be designated a Chicago landmark, a building must meet two or more of the criteria required for landmark designation.

The structure must have significant historic, community, architectural or aesthetic interest or value.

Airickca Gordon-Taylor, one of Till’s relatives who died last year, told the Crusader in 2018 that she wanted the house to be a landmark and a museum to educate future generations about Till’s death and its impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

That may happen. Today, Till’s home is owned by Blacks in Green, a non-profit Woodlawn organization that wants to turn Till’s home into a museum. The organization reportedly wants to purchase some city-owned adjoining lots.

The developments come on the 65th anniversary of Till’s death.

Nicknamed “Bobo,” in the neighborhood, Till grew up in the house before he made the fateful trip to Money, Mississippi in 1955. While visiting relatives there, Till was accused of whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, at a grocery story that her husband owned.

He was kidnapped in the early hours of the morning and taken to the shed where he was brutally beaten and shot in the head before his battered and bloated body was found weighted down with a 70-pound fan in the Tallahatchie River.

Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, insisted that A.A. Rayner Funeral Home hold an open-casket funeral at Chicago’s Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ to show the world what two white men had done to her son. Till was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery in south suburban Alsip.

Roy Bryant and John William “J. W.” Milam, were eventually acquitted by an all-white jury in a trial that lasted just over an hour. They later sold their story for $4,000 to LOOK magazine – bragging about the murder as a form of Southern justice implemented to protect white womanhood.

On November 27, 1955 Rosa Parks attended a packed meeting about Till’s murder, at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hosted the meeting. According to Parks’ biographer Jeanne Theoharis, Parks was “sickened, angry, depressed, horrified,” by Till’s murder.

In 1988, Reverend Jesse Jackson told Vanity Fair that “Rosa said she thought about going to the back of the bus. But then she thought about Emmett Till and she couldn’t do it.”

Four days after the meeting and 100 days after Till’s death bus driver James Blake told Parks to give up her seat to a white passenger, and move to the back of the bus.

Parks refused and was arrested, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Today, a park is named after Till-Mobley and the Emmett Louis Till Math and Science Academy is located in the same neighborhood where the teenager lived.

Mobley died in 2003 after decades of waiting for justice that never came.

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