The  Emmett  Till  Story: Search  for  Justice

Gerald Johnson   The Charlotte Post

Keith Beauchamp is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker who investigated the murder of Emmett Till 50 years after the younger’s death in 1955. Beauchamp’s research over nine years led to the documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, which led the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen its investigation in 2004.

In our conversation, Beauchamp will explain why he has followed leads and research for the documentary, the people he’s encountered and the relationship he built with Mamie Till Mobley, Emmett’s mother and the driving force behind keeping her son’s memory and legacy alive. While in the production phase of a new documentary on Till’s murder, Beauchamp will share the backstory to his decades of advocacy on behalf of the Till family and his subsequent collaboration with the FBI to help bring about justice.

Beauchamp first encountered the Till story at age 10 while looking through an issue of Jet magazine. In 1996, he started researching the case, and found microfilm of articles which listed witness who had not been questioned by police and references to uncharged participants besides J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, who were found not guilty of Till’s murder, but confessed to Look magazine in 1956 they committed the crime.

Those confessions, as well as recollections of people who were never interviewed by law enforcement led Beauchamp to conclude that a disservice was done to Till’s family, and by extension, the Black community, by not bringing the culprits to justice. He also draws parallels between the 1955 murder and modern-day executions of Black Americans such as Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy pictured on the left (top), was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was brutally murdered for allegedly assaulting a white woman.

The picture on the right (bottom) is Till in his open casket for public viewing that his mother wanted, to allow the world to see what happened to her baby boy.

Emmett Louis Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955) was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store.

Till, who was born and raised in Chicago, was visiting relatives near Money, Mississippi. The teen’s interaction with 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, Roy Bryant’s wife and proprietor of a small grocery store led to an accusation of inappropriate behavior that violated an unwritten code of behavior for Blacks in the Jim Crow South.

Several nights after the incident, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam went to Till’s great-uncle’s house and abducted Emmett. After kidnapping the teen, they beat and mutilated Till before shooting him in the head and throwing his body in the Tallahatchie River.

Till’s body was returned to Chicago where his mother insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket. Photographs of the mutilated body published in the Black press sparked public outcry about the brutal treatment of Blacks in the South and galvanized support for the Civil Rights Movement’s launch.

In December 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott began in Alabama and lasted more than a year, resulting eventually in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregated buses were unconstitutional.

In September 1955, an all-white jury found Bryant and Milam not guilty of murder. Protected against double jeopardy, the perpetrators publicly admitted in a 1956 interview with Look magazine that they killed Till.

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