Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett’s Mother, Honored With a Statue at Former High School

On Saturday, Argo Community High School unveiled a life-sized bronze sculpture of Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till and distinguished alum of the school in Chicago’s western suburbs.

People gathered to watch the unveiling of Till-Mobley’s sculpture, which stands behind a bronze podium with reliefs of Emmett, the barn where he was murdered and the Chicago funeral home where he was mourned.

“Mamie’s grace, courage, insight, and most importantly, her resolute authenticity of advocacy through education, equity and fidelity are present still,” said Argo Community High School Superintendent Dr. William Toulios in his opening remarks to the crowd.

“The tragic events of her son’s murder and the perilous ripples of developing an understanding of the truth, equity and unity are upheld in her legacy.”

Indeed, Till-Mobley will forever be remembered due to the racially-motivated abduction, torture and lynching of her 14-year-old son Emmett. But unfortunately, no one was ever brought to justice for his murder.

Yet, it was Till-Mobley who made the anguished decision to allow her son’s mutilated body to be displayed in an open coffin at his funeral, which drew the world’s attention to the cruelty and barbarism of American racism. That decision helped to galvanize the civil rights movement.

Inscribed on the sculpture is a quote from Till-Mobley on that fateful decision to give her son an open casket: “Let them see what I have seen.”

The Argo Community High School commissioned Chicago-area artist, activist and educator Sonja Henderson to create the sculpture.

Chicago-area artist, activist and educator Sonja Henderson

It will now stand as an enduring honor to an alum for her legacy, academic excellence, and educational commitment.

Till-Mobley was the first Black student at Argo to make the honor roll and the fourth to graduate from the high school in Summit, Illinois — about 14 miles outside Chicago.

After Emmett’s death, Till-Mobley became an ardent Civil Rights activist and an educator.

She earned a degree from Chicago Teachers College, now known as Chicago State University, in 1960. She also earned a master’s degree in education from Loyola University Chicago in 1971.

In January 2022, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow.

Ironically, the white woman who accused Emmett of whistling at her, which precipitated his murder, passed away earlier this week.

But the memorial to Till-Mobley and her son will endure at the high school where she made her own history; it’s a reminder of her resilience and activism through education, a sentiment expressed by one of her surviving relatives at the event.

“As you pass through this community and pass through this school, you will forever be reminded of the role that this woman played in molding our history,” said Ollie Gordon about her aunt’s sculpture.

“She always said, remember the past and educate the future, and we see that happening today,” she said.

“And we will continue to see it throughout the years.”

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