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Preservationists seek landmark protection for Emmett Till’s Chicago home

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The African-American teen’s brutal 1955 death helped galvanize America’s Civil Rights Movement

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An old brick two-flat once inhabited by posthumous civil rights icon Emmett Till deserves official landmark status, argues Chicago preservationists. While perhaps not architecturally remarkable, the Woodlawn structure was the home of Emmett and his mother Mamie Till Mobley when the 14 year old African-American was lynched while visiting family in Mississippi in 1955. Emmett’s violent death and the subsequent acquittal of his murderers gained international attention and helped galvanize the American Civil Rights Movement.

Advocacy group Preservation Chicago hopes to see Till’s childhood home officially recognized and protected as early as next year. Sold and renovated in recent years, the building at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Avenue is currently occupied by renters. Its owner tells the Chicago Tribune that he was unaware of the structure’s historical significance when he bought the property but is also interested in seeing it preserved.

While the former Till home holds no formal landmark status, his legacy is recognized throughout Chicago. For instance, McCosh Elementary was renamed the Emmett Louis Till Math and Science Academy and the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ which held Emmett’s funeral became a Chicago landmark ten years ago.

In Mississippi, a historical marker notes the courthouse where Till’s assailants were found not guilty. A sign on the banks of the Tallahatchie River where the teenager’s body was discovered, however, was recently riddled with bullet holes. A sign marking the grocery store where Till’s abduction occurred has also been the site of repeated vandalization.