Last month marked the 65th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till. As this recent article attests, there is a growing movement to grant historic landmark status to Emmett Till’s childhood home in Woodlawn (“Will Emmett Till’s Chicago home finally get landmark status?” Aug. 19). This initiative is of great importance because it would finally allow the home, which has fallen into disrepair, to be restored, preserved, and to prevent any changes to the exterior.
Emmett’s home is a lasting physical symbol of his life and legacy. His home should become a place of pilgrimage and reflection because Emmett Till’s martyrdom must never be forgotten.
Emmett was prominently brought back into the public eye this summer by John Lewis’ last words: “Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me.”
John Lewis was reflecting on this summer’s unprecedented global protests for racial justice and connecting it back to the start of his own activism—being inspired to action by the cruel injustice inflicted on Emmett Till and his family.
Furthermore, as our nation begins to recognize the pervasive effects of systemic racism and the economic disenfranchisement of Black Americans, we should also commit to restoring and preserving the neighborhood of Woodlawn itself. I grew up in Woodlawn, so this has special significance to me. Woodlawn, and many other historic Black communities across the country, have suffered from systemic disinvestment and the effects of redlining. This yields a host of further inequalities, such as a lack of access to quality education, health care and nutrition, as well as a greater likelihood of experiencing incarceration and police brutality.
To move forward, we must first honor and learn from the past. A good first step is to follow in John Lewis’ footsteps, continue to honor the legacy of Emmett Till and grant his childhood home in Woodlawn landmark status.
Founder, Greenlining Realty USA