How Emmett Till is being honored in Chicago this weekend for what would be his 80th birthday
Events in Chicago this weekend as well as new and renewed legislation by a Chicago congressman are marking what would be the 80th birthday of Emmett Till, the Chicago teenager whose 1955 murder helped spark the civil rights movement.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush spoke Saturday at Till's gravesite in the city, and recognition of his childhood home as a historic landmark will be made official today with a plaque dedication.
Till was born in Chicago July 25, 1941. He left his West Woodlawn home for a train trip to visit family in Money, Mississippi, where he was kidnapped from his uncle's home on Aug. 28, 1955, by white men who alleged he whistled at a white woman at a grocery store. Till's body was recovered on Aug. 31, 1955, barbed wire wrapped around his neck, face beaten beyond recognition, his body weighted down in the Tallahatchie River with a cotton gin fan.
Rush spoke Saturday at Burr Oak Cemetery, where Till was laid to rest.
"Our nation was forever changed by Emmett Till's horrific lynching and by (mother) Mamie Till-Mobley's courageous decision to hold an open-casket funeral for her son and show the nation the brutal truth and terror of racism," Rush said in a news release Friday ahead of his speech.
This week, Rush also introduced a piece of legislation called the Mamie Till-Mobley Memorial Stamp Act, which would direct the Postmaster General to create commemorative postage in honor of Mamie Till-Mobley, who became a civil rights icon in her own right.
Rush, a Democrat, in January reintroduced the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, aiming to make lynching a federal hate crime punishable by up to life in prison. The Senate unanimously passed virtually identical legislation in 2019, and the House passed it by a 410-4 vote in February 2020 but renamed the legislation for Till -- the sole change that returned the measure to the Senate last summer against a backdrop of widespread protests over police treatment of Black Americans.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, blocked the measure, saying the legislation was drafted too broadly and could define minor assaults as lynching. He also noted that murdering someone because of their race is already a hate crime.
Rush says this year's legislation has 155 co-sponsors in the House.
In March this year, Rush also introduced legislation to award a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to Till and his mother. It has been referred to committee.
A plaque ceremony to officially make the home of Till-Mobley and Till, at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Ave., a city landmark is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday. An expedited city council vote in January gave the home landmark status after the community rallied for its preservation to be converted into a museum, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The building, at risk of deterioration or demolition after failure of previous landmark efforts, had been purchased in 2019 by a developer unaware of its history. The nonprofit group Blacks In Green bought the 125-year-old building from Blake McCreight of BMW Properties in October.
Till and his mother lived on the second floor, with other aunts and uncles in the first-floor and basement units.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.