Historic Church That Funeralized Emmett Till is Designated Endangered.

Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, the Chicago church that funeralized Emmett Till, the 14-year old that was brutally beaten, lynched and body tied to a cotton-gin fan and thrown in the Tallahatchie River for allegedly whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, has been listed among the 11 most endangered historic places by The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Originally named, Church of God in Christ, Roberts Temple Church was founded in 1916 by Elder Williams Roberts, chosen by Bishop Charles Mason to minister African Americans who migrated from the south to the north for better opportunities.

Roberts Temple Emmitt Till Chicago DefenderA privately funded nonprofit organization, The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website, states that Roberts Temple church has severe structural issues and is only minimally used by the congregation. The building needs rehabilitation funding and partnerships to ensure long-term viability.

Till’s cousin and last living witness to the 1955 event, Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., told USA TODAY he hoped that putting Roberts Temple on the list would draw more attention to the landmark. “I could remember as if it was yesterday what his mother said, ‘I hope you did not die in vain.’ And that has stuck with me. His effort that they’ve been doing is a reminder that Emmett Till speaks from the grave. By putting this out on the national register, I think it’s a reminder, and she would be very happy to know that something is being done to depict what racism was like then.”

Emmett Till’s funeral was held on September 3, 1955. Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on an open-casket funeral to show the world what had been done to her son.  An estimate of 50,000 people attended the Roberts Temple to view the body.

For 33 years, The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been publishing “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” to highlight historical sites that are damaged and at risk of destruction.  More than 300 places have been listed, and fewer than 5% of listed sites have been lost, it said.

Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ has been a designated Chicago landmark since 2006.


Tammy Gibson is a travel historian, author, and writer. Find her at www.sankofatravelher.com, Facebook, Instagram @SankofaTravelher, and Twitter @SankofaTravelHr.

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