Filed Under Summit, Illinois

Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Memorial

A New Monument of Mamie Till-Mobley was unveiled in 2023.

Situated in front of Argo Community High School, just west of Chicago in the Summit, IL, the Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Memorial captures the story of a mother in the act of becoming one of the twentieth century’s most important civil rights activists.

A new monument featuring Mamie Till-Mobley was unveiled on April 29th, 2023. Situated in front of Argo Community High School, just west of Chicago in Summit, IL, the Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Memorial captures the story of a mother in the act of becoming one of the twentieth century’s most important civil rights activists. The memorial captures Mamie’s resolute dignity—head held high, arm outstretched, smile on her face—as she fought for justice after the 1955 lynching of her 14-year-old son Emmett in Mississippi. It reminds the public of her tireless work confronting racism and summons them to carry on her work today.

For over 40 years, Mamie fearlessly toured the country sharing Emmett’s story and rallying support for legislation against lynching. She returned repeatedly to Argo High School, her alma mater, to implore students to use their voices for change. Her relentless activism continued until her death in 2003 at age 81.

Now, in a monument designed by Chicago artist Sonja Henderson, Mamie resumes her watch outside Argo High. The memory of Mamie’s prophetic voice fills the space, continuing to push the country towards change.

The centerpiece of the memorial is a statue of Mamie standing behind a richly adorned podium, Surrounding the statue are a series of miniature obelisks, each of which connect Mamie’s influence to sites around Chicago and around the country. One obelisk points visitors to Robert’s Temple Church of God in Christ—the site of Till’s funeral. Another points visitors to courthouse in Mississippi where Till’s murderers were acquitted. Still another points to his boyhood home, just .3 miles away. Together, the monument and the obelisks remind us that Mamie’s power may have started in Chicago, but it coursed across the nation.

The podium behind which Mamie stands is a work of art all its own. On its north side, a base-relief sketch portrays the seed barn on the Millam plantation in Mississippi where Till’s brutal lynching occurred. Henderson protects the observer from the scene’s horror by strategically placed cotton plants that obscure but unmistakably invoke the racial violence that occurred.

A base-relief vignette on the front of the podium celebrates the beauty, innocence, and humanity of Mamie and Emmett. It features a small pond with two unattended fishing poles symbolizing the eternal lives of Mamie and Emmett. A rarely seen photograph of Emmett rests at the center of the scene, portraying his youthful innocence and, as Henderson explains, positions his death as the catalyst for Mamie’s subsequent career as a civil rights activist.

A third vignette is on the south side of the podium. Co-created by Henderson and Chicago artist John Weber, the base relief completes the story, recounting Till’s funeral at Robert’s Temple on Chicago’s South Side. When Emmett's mutilated body was shipped home to Chicago, Mississippi authorities ordered the casket sealed. Yet Mamie demanded it unsealed, insisting, as the monument reminds us, "let the people see what I've seen." That bold act, along with the open-casket funeral and chilling photos in Jet magazine, catalyzed outrage across America.

Behind the podium, Mamie stands, courageous, yet peaceful, determined to achieve justice for her son and all who face the specter of racial injustice. Under her right hand, on the podium, lies a copy of Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Bill which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 29th, 2022, an achievement that reflects the enduring legacy of Mamie’s efforts.

The Henderson-designed memorial received recognition and commendation from the 117th U.S. Congress “as a catalyst for immediate and continued education of students at Argo Community High School as well as members of the Argo-Summit community around the issues of social justice and civil rights.”

From Argo High, Mamie’s spirit cries out for justice. Her immortalized figure insists the work begun here long ago must continue, demanding her heirs—today's youth—carry forth the movement to which she dedicated her life.

Students pass beneath Mamie's resolute gaze, heading inside to classes where they matriculate, carrying hopes for the future—a future cut too short for young Emmett. In Mamie and her son, the past now walks tall beside students, linked arm in arm with each new generation, marching towards greater equality.

Images

Mamie Till-Mobley Statue
Mamie Till-Mobley Statue A close up shot of the statue. Creator: Connor Steinkamp Photography
Mamie Speaking
Mamie Speaking Front of Podium and Mamie Speaking Creator: Connor Steinkamp Photography
Mamie and Argo High School Lawn
Mamie and Argo High School Lawn A view from behind the statue Creator: Connor Steinkamp Photography
Memorial from the northwest
Memorial from the northwest Wide view of the memorial Creator: Connor Steinkamp Photography
Memorial from above
Memorial from above Memorial from above Creator: Connor Steinkamp Photography
Memorial from the southeast
Memorial from the southeast the memorial situated on the lawn with the streets of Summit in the background. Creator: Connor Steinkamp Photography
The Anti-Lynching Bill
The Anti-Lynching Bill close-up of the top of the podium, with Mamie's hand on the anti-lynching bill Creator: Connor Steinkamp Photography
Base relief rendering of Robert's Temple Church of God in Christ
Base relief rendering of Robert's Temple Church of God in Christ South side of the podium Creator: Connor Steinkamp Photography
Front of the podium
Front of the podium Front of the podium Creator: Connor Steinkamp Photography

Location

7329 W 63rd St, Summit, IL 60501

Metadata

Theon Hill, “Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Memorial,” Emmett Till Memory Project, accessed March 4, 2024, https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/25.