New National Monument Will Increase Access to Civil Rights Movement History Through America’s National Parks System
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the National Park Foundation (NPF), the National Park Service (NPS), and the Emmett Till Interpretive Center (ETIC), the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Mississippi where an all-white jury acquitted two white men of Till’s murder in 1955 will be made accessible to the public as part of the newly established Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument.
Made possible through nearly $3 million dollars in private philanthropy, the courthouse will join two other sites that comprise the national monument, including Graball Landing where Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River and the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, where Mamie Till-Mobley held Emmett’s open-casket funeral.
As part of the National Park System, the courthouse will preserve the history of the Till family and this important chapter of civil rights history for present and future generations.
“The new park site holds the power to inspire a deeper and more complete understanding of America’s ever-evolving story,” said Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “Thanks to the partnership and support of the Mellon Foundation and Fund II Foundation, the new Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument will make a seminal event in our nation’s civil rights era history accessible to all.”
With a $2 million dollar grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project, the National Park Foundation worked with ETIC and NPS to facilitate the acquisition of the Tallahatchie County Courthouse that enabled the establishment of the site by the National Park Service. This was possible through the purchase and renovation of an existing structure that will house the new county courthouse which is located blocks from the original.
“Due to the shared vision and coordination of the Till family, community activists, historians, educators, culture workers, and other partner organizations, the torture and murder of Emmett Till and the bravery of his mother Mamie Till-Mobley will be forever marked as sites of learning in the country’s commemorative landscape. The Mellon Foundation is honored to be a part of this vital collaborative effort to make indelibly present Emmett Till’s central and sacred place in our collective American history. May his tragic death and his mother’s courage continue to empower us to stand bravely against forces of violence and hatred.”Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation.
This funding, in addition to $1 million from the Fund II Foundation, also supports the creation of a National Park Service Park Ranger position focused on community engagement to partner with local stakeholders and bolster efforts to interpret the Tallahatchie County Courthouse for park visitors, expand the digital storytelling around the Till family within the visitor center, conduct a cultural landscape report, and install a contemplative area at Graball Landing that allows visitors to reflect on the story of Emmett Till. “
Fund II is honored to support the establishment of a new park site that commemorates the people, places, and events that have shaped American history and African American experiences,” said Robert F. Smith, founder and president of the Fund II Foundation. “We are especially proud to support the digital storytelling that will bring the incredible story of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley to a new generation of Americans.”
In addition to its funding support for NPF’s acquisition of the courthouse and park interpretive staff, the Mellon Foundation’s Monument Project has also made a $2.9 million grant to support restoration and public accessibility at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago.
SOURCE: National Park Foundation