Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz Tours Civil Rights Sites in Illinois

Interior Department

CHICAGO – Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz visited Illinois today, where she toured several sites that honor individuals and events that advanced the Civil Rights Movement and discussed the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing work to strengthen equity and social justice, including efforts to help tell a more complete story of America.

During her trip, Assistant Secretary Estenoz visited sites associated with the lives of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley. She met with Till relatives, including Dr. Marvel Parker and Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr., as well as historians, historic preservation advocates, and other community leaders working to preserve those sites. In 1955, the kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till while visiting relatives in Mississippi captured national attention and helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement across the nation.

Assistant Secretary Estenoz visited Summit, Illinois, where Till spent several years as a child. Summit was a company town that attracted African American migrants from across the South with well-paying jobs in a safe community. This great migration expanded the African American population of Chicago and other cities across Illinois.

Congressman Bobby Rush joined Assistant Secretary Estenoz during her visit to Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ on Chicago’s South Side. The temple is where tens of thousands of mourners visited over the course of a four-day visitation and funeral. Mamie Till-Mobley’s decision to have an open-casket funeral helped expose Americans to the injustices facing black people in the United States. The site is recognized as a City of Chicago Landmark, and there is bipartisan legislation pending in Congress to designate Roberts Temple as a unit of the National Park System. Assistant Secretary Estenoz also visited Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois – Emmett and Mamie Till’s final resting place.

Assistant Secretary Estenoz wrapped up her trip with a visit to the Pullman National Monument and the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, named for the prominent leader A. Philip Randolph, who founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and successfully negotiated a labor contract for the porters from the Pullman Company. The agreement served as a model for other African American workers and significantly contributed to the rise of the civil rights and labor movements in the United States. President Obama designated Pullman National Monument in 2015, using his authorities under the Antiquities Act.

As part of the effort to tell a fuller story of the struggle for civil rights in America, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary Estenoz visited several communities and sites in Mississippi earlier this year associated with the Civil Rights Movement. National Park Service Director Chuck Sams also recently visited Illinois to meet with community members and visit the site of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot, another seminal event that served as the catalyst for the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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