by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producerBy CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago City Council on Wednesday granted landmark status to the Woodlawn house where Emmett Till lived before his brutal murder in Mississippi in 1955 helped spark the civil rights movement.

The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House, at 6247 S. St. Lawrence Ave., will be protected from demolition or significant alterations as an official city landmark.

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A local nonprofit, Blacks in Green, purchased the house in October, and is planning to turn the site into a museum.

Built in 1895, the house was where Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, lived in 1955 when the 14-year-old was lynched in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman at a grocery store. His mother insisted on an open casket at his funeral to put a face to racism, showing the world his severely battered body.

Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Bronzeville, the church where Till’s funeral was held, was designated a city landmark in 2006.

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), in whose ward the Till house is located, called the approval of landmark status for the Till home an important moment in Black history.

“A lot of times history that happens for African Americans are forgotten about, and so before there was Trayvon Martin, before there was Eric Garner, there was Emmett Till,” she said.

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Taylor also said there is still a serious problem in the United States addressing acts of brutality against Black Americans.

“We will repeat history if we don’t address it and have those very hard conversations,” she said.

Preservation Chicago executive director Ward Miller said the organization is “elated” at the landmark designation for the Till house.

“We’ve been working toward this honor and Chicago Landmark Designation for many years, recognizing the importance of this home and its associations with the tragic death of Emmett Till.  Emmett Till’s brutal death was part of the profound ‘spark’ that influenced so many leaders in the efforts towards equality and confronting injustice in America, from Dr. King to Rosa Parks and so many people in between.  It was a turning point in the struggle for Civil Rights and equality for all Americans,” he said in a statement. “The lynching of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old child from Chicago, on a summer trip to visit his relatives in Mississippi, and the brave efforts of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley that followed, were a call to action.  We should never forget the brutality of his death, the lifelong efforts of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley to show the world these injustices, and also her courage to also forgive, but to always remember too.”

“We are hopeful that this Chicago Landmark Designation of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House will serve as a monument to the Till Family and the struggle for Civil Rights in perpetuity and be a site of pilgrimage,” he added.

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