A Home in Chicago

Till's ill-fated trip to Mississippi began at this house

In November 1951, ten-year old Emmett, his mother Mamie Till-Bradley, and her new husband Pink Bradley moved into a two-flat home in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.

Less than two years earlier, Mrs. Till and Emmett had left their comfortable community in Argo for an adventure in Detroit. As Mrs. Till-Mobley (her final married name) tells the story in The Death of Innocence, she went to Detroit looking for love. She found Pink Bradley and married him in May of 1951. But Emmett never took to Detroit. He longed for the friends and family he left behind in Summit. By the time of the wedding, Emmett had moved back to the Chicago area on his own and was living with John Carthan, the younger brother of his grandfather Wiley Carthan. Till-Bradley had no interest in being so far away from her son. When her mother Alma Spearman purchased the two-flat home at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Street, she resigned her Detroit-area job and returned to Chicago to work as an Air Force clerk just south of the Loop.

Emmett, his mother, and, for a couple of months, Pink, lived on the three-bedroom second floor. Ollie Gordon lived in the garden apartment and an uncle lived on the first floor. Although the marriage to Pink was over by the end of 1952, the S. St. Lawrence Street home was good to her and Emmett. Just after moving in, Emmett began 5th grade at McCosh elementary school, an all-black school just a 5-minute walk from his home.

As Till-Mobley recalled, “Emmett controlled 64th and St. Lawrence. For a three-block stretch, this was his land. He knew every old person. He did grocery errands. He did lawns. He (shoveled) snow. He made $15 washing and painting a ladies’ hall, from the lower molding down to the floor.” 64th and St. Lawrence may have been Emmett’s “land,” but his heart was never totally in it. On weekends, Till would ride the 63rd-street street car back to the friendly confines of Argo. There he would find his cousin Wheeler and the friends with whom he spent his first nine years.

Till’s last journey from S. St. Lawrence Street was on the morning of August 20, 1955. He caught the 8:01am train at Englewood Station, barely two blocks from his house. The train was bound for the Mississippi Delta where Till would become the victim of one of America’s most ruthless lynchings.

The house has not fared well in recent years. In 2015, it was bought by Alex Al-Sabah of Elite Invest for $47,500. Elite Invest evicted squatters and flipped the house, quickly selling it for $175,000 to a New Jersey investor named Brahmananda Bandela. Neither Al-Sabah nor Bandela were aware of the home’s history. In 2017, Preservation Chicago advocated that the home should be given Chicago Landmark status, although there has been no progress on that front.

While the home has never been commemorated, McCosh Elementary has fared better. Till attended McCosh Elementary from 1951 to 1955 (grades 5-8). In 2006, McCosh Elementary was renamed the Emmett Louis Till Math and Science Academy. Located at 6543 South Champlain Avenue, the school is now a magnet school for the fine and performing arts.

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6427 S. St. Lawrence, Chicago, IL 60637 ~ No access to the interior of the home.