August 28, 1955, Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago, is abducted from his uncle’s home in Money, Mississippi. Two white men – Roy Bryant Jr. and J. W. Milam – seize Till after he supposedly whistled at a white woman, and days later, he’s found brutally murdered, his body mutilated. An all-white jury would eventually acquit the two men of the crime. Although they would later confess in a paid interview with journalist William Bradford Huie, for Look magazine.
Exactly 8 years later, August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. (who called Till’s murder "one of the most brutal and inhuman crimes of the twentieth century"), led The March on Washington – one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history, calling for civil and economic rights for African Americans. It took place in Washington, D.C., where, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, King delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, advocating racial harmony.
Three months and three days after Emmett Till’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began.
Before today’s news, there were at 3 Emmett Till films already in the works that we knew of – all 3 are to be scripted, not documentaries. Today, we can add a 4th project.
Keith A. Beauchamp (the director of the 2005 documentary, "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till") and Frederick Zollo have teamed up with Whoopi Goldberg to produce a scripted film that will be based on Beauchamp’s documentary and Simeon Wright’s “Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till.”
The film, to be titled simply “Till,” is set to go into production early next year.
A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to help finance the making of the film, with the goal being to raise $50,000 by September 18th to jump-start the process. A pitch video is embedded below.
The project joins others in already in the works from the late Roger Ebert’s wife Chaz Ebert, which will be based on the book, “Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America,” co-written by Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley (who passed away in 2003), and journalist Christopher Benson; The second will be based on the play, “The Face of Emmett Till" from Skyland Pictures and FireRock Bay Pictures, which James Moll (“The Last Days”) is attached to direct, from a script penned by David Barr III and David Scott Hay, who are also co-producing. And just like the Chaz Ebert project, which will be based on a book co-written by Emmett Till’s mother, the play that this film will be based on, was also co-written by Till’s mother, the late Mamie Till-Mobley, along with David Barr III; A third project is set up at HBO as a miniseries, from a producing team that includes Will Smith, Jay-Z and Aaron Kaplan. Currently in active development, the series is described as "an immersive and in depth exploration of the Emmett Till story." A writer is being sought to script what is expected to be a 6-hour miniseries for HBO. No other details are available at this time.
Which of these unmade Emmett Till projects will cross the finish line first?
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the the brutal crime, which might explain the renewed interest in telling that story on film – one that has rightfully been called "the hate crime that changed America" and in fact sparked the Civil Rights movement.
Here’s the pitch video for the Beauchamp project, followed by Kickstarter widget: