Roberts Temple: A National Historic Site

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Emmett Till’s body was on display at Roberts Temple for four days leading up to his funeral. Tens of thousands of people viewed his mutilated body. (Photo: Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection / Chicago History Museum)

By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.

JA Senior International Correspondent

On March 16, 2021, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced a bill designating Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, located in Chicago, as a National Historic Site. This church held the funeral of Emmett Till in 1955. 

The proposed legislation would make the church site a unit of the National Park System. The site preservation project should be completed within three years of funding. In September 2020, the Chicago Sun Times published a story noting its current “severe structural issues.” Designation as a national historic site will ensure the church building is preserved. 

Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr. (Till’s cousin), his wife Dr. Marvel Parker, and the Till family issued a statement say-ing: “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.’”

Till was only 14-years-old when he was brutally murdered in Mississippi by a group of racist white men. An estimated 100,000 people at-tended the wake and funeral at Roberts Temple in Chicago. 

Till’s death and open casket funeral shocked the nation. His grotesquely disfigured body reflected the horror Till experienced at the hands of these white men hating him just because he allegedly offended a white woman by whistling.

If the bill is passed, then this church will join more than 2,600 national historic landmarks. Among these landmarks are buildings, sites, structures, objects and districts. Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta is among the dozens of other houses of worship identified as national historic sites.

During an exclusive inter-view yesterday, a relative of Till, Dr. Sheila Chamberlain, said she is excited by the Sen-ate considering this site among those preserved because “it’s a long time coming and justice is just arrived. God is making crooked places straight.” 

The proposed bill can be found at https://www.duckworth.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/FLO21271.pdf

Private donations too are being accepted. Please visit https://www.tillnationalpark.org  for additional information.