Emmett Till’s childhood home in South Side Chicago is on its way to becoming a historical landmark. On Thursday (Sept. 10), the Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted unanimously to grant preliminary landmark status to the red brick, Victorian-era two-story home, where Till lived with his mother for the final four years of his young life.
The designation was a victory for local historical preservationists and activists, some of whom are hoping to eventually turn the building into a museum to commemorate Till’s life and the civil rights activism of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.
“I want that home to be a museum for young people in the community where we can talk about Black history, Emmett Till’s life and legacy and — in a perfect world — even talk about policing and the injustices that happen in our community,” Alderman of Chicago’s 20th ward Jeanette Taylor told WTTW News before the commission’s vote. “Normally, historic preservation doesn’t happen too often in our communities because we’re not viewed as worth being preserved.”
The building was bought by Blake McCreight in 2019, who reportedly did not know Till had lived there but supported its preservation. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, local activist Naomi Davis offered to buy the home from McCreight in order to turn it into a museum and gallery, though she has not received an answer from him yet.
The preliminary landmark status protects the outside of the house from being altered or demolished. In order to receive full landmark status, the issue will be voted on by another committee focused on local landmarks, buildings and zoning. Then, the Chicago City Council will conduct the final vote to approve the building’s historical landmark status.
The news arrives 65 years after a 14-year-old Till was kidnapped by a mob of white men and brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman in a grocery store. Till’s horrific and senseless death became a rallying cry during the Civil Rights Movement and over 100,000 people reportedly attended his open-casket funeral. The group of men who kidnapped and killed the teenager were later acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury.
See a photo of Till’s home below.
The Landmarks Commission adopts a preliminary landmark recommendation for the Emmett Till House at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Ave. in West Woodlawn. Till lived in the building from 1951 until 1955 when, at age 14, he was kidnapped and murdered by racists in Mississippi. pic.twitter.com/mWUWHD4ic1— Chicago DPD (@ChicagoDPD) September 3, 2020