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A narrow grassy path leads to a river
Graball Landing site along the Tallahatchie River
NPF Photo
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NPF’s Commitment to Preserving Civil Rights Sites Continues with New Park Designation

NPF and Mellon Foundation Partner to Preserve Tallahatchie County Courthouse and Graball Landing
By Rebecca Watson

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the National Park Foundation and its donors, including the Mellon Foundation and Fund II Foundation, a new National Park Service site will preserve the story and legacy of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley, a crucial chapter of American history and the civil rights movement. The newly designated park – Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument – is comprised of three sites, two in Mississippi and one in Chicago. NPF has contributed nearly $3 million, with full support from the Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project initiative and Fund II Foundation, to enable the preservation of the Till family’s story in context of this new park site, as well as the first year of staffing required to interpret the history and story of the historical courthouse.

Emmett Till — who was 14 at the time — was tortured and murdered in August 1955 while visiting his cousins in Mississippi, his body recovered from the Tallahatchie River days later. Till’s mother Mamie Till-Mobley held an open-casket memorial for her son in Chicago at the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, attended by tens of thousands of mourners. Weeks later at the Tallahatchie County Courthouse, an all-white jury acquitted two white men of Till’s murder. These events, as well as images of Till-Mobley’s grief and Till’s body, made an international impact, inspiring many to join the civil rights movement. The new park will preserve the site where Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River, Graball Landing, as well as the sites of his Chicago memorial and the courthouse where the trial took place. The establishment of this park provides a new chapter in our nation’s ever-evolving journey to create a more perfect union.

Wayside at Graball Landing along the Tallahatchie River
Wayside at Graball Landing along the Tallahatchie River (NPF Photo)

NPF played a critical role in the establishment of this new park, helping fund the due diligence and assessments required for NPS to acquire the courthouse and Graball Landing sites, the acquisition of the site of a future visitor and interpretive center, and the creation of a park ranger position focused on community engagement and partnership relations. This includes funding to the Emmett Till Interpretive Center (ETIC), which will purchase and renovate a nearby building as the site of the new Tallahatchie Courthouse, allowing the country to relocate so the historic courthouse will be fully available for NPS interpretation and visitors. This support was made possible by the Mellon Foundation, whose Monument Project initiative will also award the new park a further $2.9 million to renovate the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago.

Rows of wooden chairs, bolted into the floor and all pointed towards an elevated platform. Above are fans and lights and the wall is lined with tall, narrow windows.
Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi (NPF Photo)
Exterior of brick building: two stories with narrow arched windows and featuring a tall tower to the right
Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi (NPF Photo)

This collaboration between NPF, NPS, ETIC, the Mellon Foundation, and Fund II Foundation is just one example of the power of philanthropy and partnership in supporting America’s national parks. This type of partnership is essential to the success of America’s national parks – ensuring the people, places, and events at the core of our nation’s history are preserved.

To date, NPF has received over $32 million in private funds to support African American history and culture at NPS sites across the country. To increase the power of this support, NPF leveraged these funds with additional federal funds, tripling the amount available in support of NPS. In the last decade alone, NPF has helped NPS stand up five new parks through land acquisition and seed funding, including Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument and Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. Supporters and partners of NPF are crucial in supporting new parks and historical sites.

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