Synopsis by Mark Deming
In 1955, Emmett Louis Till was a 14-year-old African-American from Chicago who traveled to Money, MS, to visit his relatives. Till came home several months later in a box; Till had supposedly whistled at a white woman, and 14 white men, angered by the young man's perceived arrogance, beat him senseless, shot him to death, and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighing it down with an engine from a cotton gin. Emmett's mother, Mamie Till, was a fearless woman determined to see that justice was done (she had an open casket at Emmett's funeral and allowed Jet magazine to publish a photo of his badly mutilated body so others could see the full extent of the crime), but convicting white men on charges of lynching a black teenager in the Deep South in the 1950s was all but impossible, and the two charged with Emmett's death, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were found not guilty by a jury who deliberated for so short a period they stopped for a cold drink to stretch the wait to an hour. Only a few months later, Bryant and Milam admitted they had committed the crime to a reporter from Look magazine, knowing they were protected from further prosecution under double jeopardy statutes. The other 12 men involved in the crime were not charged. Almost 50 years later, filmmaker Keith Beauchamp traveled to Mississippi to investigate the surviving characters in this heinous crime, and The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till combines newsreel footage shot during the investigation of the murder in 1955 with present-day interviews, including Till's cousins, who watched helplessly as he was dragged away by an angry mob; Till's uncle, who identified the guilty men in court; friends and co-workers of the men who committed the crimes (five of whom were still alive when the film was completed), and Mamie Till. In 2005, in part because of evidence uncovered by the filmmakers, the Emmett Till case was reopened in Mississippi.
acquittal, African-American, Civil-Rights, family-tragedy, murder, racial-tension