'The Murder of Emmett Till' Airs Monday

Put this on your calendars now: The Murder of Emmett Till will air on PBS Monday, January 20, 2003 at 9:00 pm, EST, check local listings for the time in your area.

A synopsis of the crime:
In August 1955, a fourteen-year-old black boy whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Emmett Till, a teen from Chicago, didn't understand that he had broken the unwritten laws of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head. Although his killers were arrested and charged with murder, they were both acquitted quickly by an all-white, all-male jury. Shortly afterwards, the defendants sold their story, including a detailed account of how they murdered Till, to a journalist. The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world. Till's death was a spark that helped mobilize the civil rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began.

Here is a description of the film.

From our earlier post:
A new film could bring justice to the case of Emmett Louis Till, "a 14-year-old black Chicagoan who was kidnapped, mutilated and brutally murdered while visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955."

Two men who admitted abducting the boy were acquitted of his murder. Despite riots over the incident, no one was ever held accountable. Now, due to a new documentary by 31-year-old Keith Beauchamp, the case could be reopened.

Beauchamp grew up in Lousiana and when he was 10 or 11, he found a picture of the mutilated body of Emmett Till. He has been obsessed with the case ever since, spending the last six years filming and tracking down witnesses.

The trial took place in Tallahatchie County which at that time only had all white juries even though the population was two-thirds black.

"In the minds of many Mississippians in 1955, a black man could justifiably be lynched even for looking at a white woman. Emmett was tortured and killed for allegedly "wolf whistling" at Mr. Bryant's wife, Carolyn, a storekeeper in Money, Miss. One of the tragedies of this case is that the so-called "wolf whistle" was probably a misunderstanding. Emmett had a speech impediment. When he got stuck on a word, he would stop speaking and abruptly whistle, as a way of untangling his tongue."

"Over the last several decades, Hollywood has turned away even famous producers who wanted to bring this story to film. As an unknown, working quietly on his own, Mr. Beauchamp has succeeded where others have failed, casting new light on a crime that many thought would remain forever unpunished. The information in this film could conceivably change that, allowing law enforcement officials to achieve justice at last for Emmett Louis Till. "
******** Bob Dylan recorded "The Death of Emmett Till" in 1963.
Twas down in Mississippi no so long ago, When a young boy from Chicago town stepped through a Southern door.
This boy's dreadful tragedy I can still remember well,
The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till.

Some men they dragged him to a barn and there they beat him up.
They said they had a reason, but I can't remember what.
They tortured him and did some evil things too evil to repeat.
There was screaming sounds inside the barn, there was laughing sounds out on the street.

Then they rolled his body down a gulf amidst a bloody red rain
And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screaming pain.
The reason that they killed him there, and I'm sure it ain't no lie,
Was just for the fun of killin' him and to watch him slowly die.

And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial,
Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till.
But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime,
And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind.

I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see
The smiling brothers walkin' down the courthouse stairs.
For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free,
While Emmett's body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea.

If you can't speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that's so unjust,
Your eyes are filled with dead men's dirt, your mind is filled with dust.
Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your blood it must refuse to flow,
For you let this human race fall down so God-awful low!

This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man
That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan.
But if all of us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give,
We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live.
Dawn Turner Trice, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has more on the filmmakers' attempts to re-open the case and on the funeral service and life of Emmett's mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who became a leader of the civil rights movement after her son's death, and who dedicated the remainder of her life to trying to reopen the investigation into his murder.
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