The Untold Story of Emmett Till
In August of 1955, Mamie Till sent her 14 year-old son, Emmett, to visit relatives in Mississippi. Raised in Chicago, far from the repressive social structure of the South, the boy was unaware that he'd made an unforgivable mistake when he reportedly whistled at a white girl he found attractive.
The lynching party which came for the youth in the middle of the night left his body utterly unrecognizable. Back then, due to a racist legal system, blacks had no recourse against this sort of terroristic intimidation. And so the murderers got off scot-free, after an all-white jury found them not guilty after laughingly brief deliberations. The defendant even bragged about their exploits in a Look Magazine interview where they blamed Till for not knowing his place.
For about a half century, the case remained dormant, primarily because of the Constitutional protection against Double Jeopardy, being tried twice for the same crime. However, in recent years, the Feds have started hauling acquitted perpetrators back into court to charge them with separate Civil Rights violations.
Now, filmmaker Keith Beauchamp has successfully embarrassed the Feds into re-opening the case. For in researching and conducting interviews for his damning documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Till, he managed to coax several critical eyewitnesses, previously too afraid of reprisals to talk, to describe for his camera exactly what had transpired on the night in question.
The film also features some sweet moments of reflection by the late Mamie Till (who herself passed away in January of 2003) during which she wistfully reminisces about the intelligent, curious and animated son taken away from her so brutally and so senselessly. And the ubiquitous Reverend Al Sharpton is also in the house, here, eloquently putting Emmett Till in proper political perspective.
A fine film, one guaranteed to make you cry, at least if you come down on the side of those who see America's 100 years of lynching as a shameful stain on the country's legacy.
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center
104 17th Ave South
Seattle, WA 98144
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