A sculpture of Civil Rights icon Mamie Till-Mobley and a memorial for her son, Emmett Till, were unveiled at Argo Community High School in Illinois over the weekend. It was part of celebrating her life and legacy in Summit, Illinois, where she was among the school’s most well-known graduates.
ABC 7 Chicago reports that Till-Mobley was the first African-American student to make the honor roll at the school and was the fourth student of color to graduate.
“This is a great, great honor. She always said, ‘Remember the past and educate the future, and we see that happening today,” Ollie Gordon, a relative of Till-Mobley, told the local station.
The sculpture and the walkway face the high school adjacent to the neighborhood where Till-Mobley and Emmett once lived. The site of her former home has been designated a historic landmark.
“We want to make sure her story is ever-lasting,” said Argo Community High School District 217 Superintendent Dr. William Toulios, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
Till-Mobley’s life was forever changed in August 1955 when her 14-year-old son was abducted, beaten, and murdered after being accused of whistling at a white woman while visiting family in Mississippi.
The unveiling of the memorial happened the same week that Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who accused Emmett of harassment, died at the age of 88.
After Donham’s accusation, her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam pulled the young teenager from his bed and order him into the back of a pickup truck, where they beat him, shot him in the head and threw him into the Tallahatchie River. In 1956, after the two men were tried and acquitted of the crime, they admitted to the murder. No one was ever convicted.
Till-Mobley’s choice to have an open casket at her son’s funeral where people could see his mutilated body helped spark the Civil Rights Movement and established her as a change agent.
The life-sized bronze statue was reportedly commissioned and inspired by a picture of Mamie and took about a year to complete. It also depicts Emmett Till’s life and death.
“There is the barn on one side, where he was lynched, and other side, there’s the historic funerary scene, which is pretty intense and incredible,” said community activist Sonja Henderson.
In 2003, Till-Mobley died in Chicago after a lifetime of work as an educator and an advocate. In addition to the walkway, a scholarship in Till-Mobley’s name is being established and will be awarded to students demonstrating a commitment to social justice.