Chicago school renamed in honor of Emmett Till

Chicago school renamed in honor of Emmett Till

Margena A. Christian

The Chicago school that 14-year-old Emmett Till last attended before he was murdered in 1955 has been renamed in his honor (Jet, Sept. 19, 2005).

James McCosh Elementary School was rededicated as Emmett Louis Till Math & Science Academy during a ceremony attended by city dignitaries, community activists, family and former Till classmates.

“I am very, very excited,” said the school’s principal, Mary Rodgers. “This is a long time coming, but it’s the right time and the right era to make this change.”

Till was murdered on August 28, 1955, for allegedly whistling at a White woman in Mississippi. His badly mangled, bloated body was found in the Tallahatcie River days later. Mamie Till Mobley, his mother, insisted on a public viewing of the body. Photos were shown nationally

in Jet Magazine.

His mother, a longtime Chicago Public School teacher, died in 2003 (Jet, Jan. 27, 2003). One of her dreams was to have a school named in honor of her only child.

It s a great idea, stud Simeon Wright, Till’s cousin, who was asleep next to him the night Till was kidnapped from Wright’s father’s house. “The school itself couldn’t bring Emmett back here, but they are doing something to keep his memory alive. It’s a great tribute.”

The school was named after James McCosh, a prominent Scottish-American philosopher who was the 11th president of Princeton University. Chicago community activist EvAngel Mamadee YHWH-newBN suggested the name change because she felt that Till’s legacy was more meaningful to Chicagoans.

Dr. E.W. Spears, Till’s seventh-grade and last teacher, was on hand at the ceremony.

“He was a chubby, mischievous child,” recalled Spears. “He liked to joke and kid and chew gum. Most of the children liked him because he was fun-loving and liked to tease around and play around… (His tourder) was a traumatic experience to have heard about. It was heartbreaking for everybody.”

An oil painting of Till was unveiled during the ceremony; the picture will be hung in the school’s front foyer. A mural is in the auditorium.

And a group of eighth-graders have formed an Emmett Till Club that will create a museum called the Emmett Till Children’s Museum of Social Change. The museum will display children who played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement, such as the Little Rock Nine and Ruby Bridges.

Two days before the renaming, the entire school viewed Keith A. Beauchamp’s documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, recently released on DVD.

The film, along with several pieces of information, was instrumental in the Justice Department’s decision to reopen the case in May 2004 (Jet, May 31, 2004).

Till’s body was exhumed last year, with DNA test results positively identifying his identity.

The results of an FBI report are being turned over to Joyce Chiles, chief prosecutor for Mississippi’s Fourth Judicial District. Then she will decide whether to present the case to a grand jury to consider charges.

In summarizing the school’s importance, Spears said: “It needs to serve as a reminder of what happened for us to receive our civil rights.”

COPYRIGHT 2006 Johnson Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group