It was one of the most egregious and highly publicized miscarriages of justice in American history: the murder of Emmett Louis Till, a sixteen-year-old black boy who was brutally murdered for the alleged crime of flirting with a while woman in rural Mississippi in 1955. Though the obviously guilty perpetrators of the murder were acquitted (and, protected by double jeopardy, brazenly admitted their guilt a year later in an interview withLook
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magazine), explosive anger over the case provided a major catalyst for the civil rights movement. Nearly fifty years later, documentarian Keith Beauchamp went in search of answers, implicating fourteen more people in that murder and causing the prosecution to reopen the case.
A grand jury declined to go to trial on the evidence produced by that investigation (and nobody has ever been convicted for the crime), but you can still see the result of Beauchamp's work, the fascinating 2004 documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, which examines the troubling facts of the crime in greater detail than perhaps ever before. And as far as crimes go, there have been few more influential: The fact that Rosa Parks herself once said she "thought of Emmett Till" when she refused to give up her seat on that fateful bus, and the compelling similarities between the Till trial and the fictional trial in To Kill a Mockingbird (published in 1960) both speak to its broad-ranging impact on society.
Tonight you can see it for free. It's the last installment in the Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library's Seldom Screened: Black Directors series, which has been hosting free showings (along with free popcorn and drinks) of films by black directors for the past two months -- so get up on it before the free stuff runs out. See it tonight at 6 p.m.