WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the National Park Foundation (NPF), the National Park Service (NPS), and the Emmett Till Interpretive Center (ETIC), the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Mississippi where an all-white jury acquitted two white men of Till’s murder in 1955 will be made accessible to the public as part of the newly established Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument.
Made possible through nearly $3 million dollars in private philanthropy, the courthouse will join two other sites that comprise the national monument, including Graball Landing where Till's body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River and the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, where Mamie Till-Mobley held Emmett’s open-casket funeral.
As part of the National Park System, the courthouse will preserve the history of the Till family and this important chapter of civil rights history for present and future generations.
“The new park site holds the power to inspire a deeper and more complete understanding of America’s ever-evolving story,” said Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “Thanks to the partnership and support of the Mellon Foundation and Fund II Foundation, the new Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument will make a seminal event in our nation’s civil rights era history accessible to all.”
With a $2 million dollar grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project, the National Park Foundation worked with ETIC and NPS to facilitate the acquisition of the Tallahatchie County Courthouse that enabled the establishment of the site by the National Park Service. This was possible through the purchase and renovation of an existing structure that will house the new county courthouse which is located blocks from the original.
“Due to the shared vision and coordination of the Till family, community activists, historians, educators, culture workers, and other partner organizations, the torture and murder of Emmett Till and the bravery of his mother Mamie Till-Mobley will be forever marked as sites of learning in the country’s commemorative landscape,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation. “The Mellon Foundation is honored to be a part of this vital collaborative effort to make indelibly present Emmett Till’s central and sacred place in our collective American history. May his tragic death and his mother’s courage continue to empower us to stand bravely against forces of violence and hatred.”
This funding, in addition to $1 million from the Fund II Foundation, also supports the creation of a National Park Service Park Ranger position focused on community engagement to partner with local stakeholders and bolster efforts to interpret the Tallahatchie County Courthouse for park visitors, expand the digital storytelling around the Till family within the visitor center, conduct a cultural landscape report, and install a contemplative area at Graball Landing that allows visitors to reflect on the story of Emmett Till.
“Fund II is honored to support the establishment of a new park site that commemorates the people, places, and events that have shaped American history and African American experiences,” said Robert F. Smith, founder and president of the Fund II Foundation. “We are especially proud to support the digital storytelling that will bring the incredible story of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley to a new generation of Americans."
In addition to its funding support for NPF’s acquisition of the courthouse and park interpretive staff, the Mellon Foundation's Monument Project has also made a $2.9 million grant to support restoration and public accessibility at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help protect more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts, connect all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history, and engage the next generation of park stewards. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at www.nationalparks.org.
ABOUT THE ANDREW W. MELLON FOUNDATION
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.
ABOUT THE FUND II FOUNDATION
Fund II Foundation was established in 2014 for grant-making to public charities. At the heart of the foundation is a deep commitment to advancing social change and creating an enduring American legacy. To date, Fund II Foundation has made grants worth nearly $250 million to a broad range of charities, including The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, The United Negro College Fund, NPower, The Opportunity Network, and The National Park Foundation.