Speech | Chicago, Illinois | October 21, 2022

Department of Interior Remarks: Preserve Sites Connected to Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley

The following remarks were made by Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and senior vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, at a community meeting hosted by the U.S. Department of Interior at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ on Friday, October 21, 2022.

My name is Brent Leggs and I represent the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is headquartered in Washington, DC. I’m here today because we’d like the president to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect and preserve the historic Roberts Temple and the Mississippi sites connected to Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley.

President Biden can build on his profound legacy as vice president through his partnership with President Obama, where together they designated 29 new national monuments to tell a more accurate American story. In his role today as president, the National Trust and our partners request that he establish a site of conscience, memory, and justice to:

  • Harness the power of historic preservation and America’s national park system to memorialize an example of racial violence as a pathway for education, racial healing, and progress.
  • Center in our nation’s history the overlooked and underrecognized contribution of Black women in civil rights whose leadership, agency, sacrifice, and resilience continues to inspire.
  • And uplift the multiplicity of legacies imbued at historic Black churches, which is fundamental to building a true national identity.

Since 2017, the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has invested nearly $500,000 in grant funding to the Emmett and Mamie Till Institute for the stabilization of Roberts Temple and the expansion of programming and paid staff at the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi, and the Mamie Till Mobley and Emmet Till home in Chicago. Through existing and new partnerships, we will increase our investment and provide specialized preservation expertise to ensure that Roberts Temple is restored and interpreted for local, national, and global audiences.

In closing, Madam Secretary, please carry this message to our Commander in Chief. President Biden has an opportunity to create the first national monument in Chicago exclusively representing Black American history and this city’s vital role in catalyzing the movement for equality and human rights. The lessons embodied in these historic walls, their history, and their legacy are worthy of this exceptional designation. Thank you.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
SavingPlaces.org | @savingplaces

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