Jay Z and Will Smith are teaming up with Aaron Kaplan to produce an HBO miniseries about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was lynched in Money, Mississippi in 1955 after whistling at a white woman. His death became a catalyst for the civil rights movement—and the brutality it evidenced in race relations in America is tragically relevant half a century later, in light of Sandra Bland and more.
The Till project, according to Deadline, is currently looking for a screenwriter to pen what looks to be a six-hour miniseries about the 14-year-old’s death, as well as the climate that fostered it and the aftermath of his lynching. It happened in August 1955, when Till, originally from Chicago, was visiting family in Mississippi. He allegedly flirted with a white female store owner named Carolyn Bryant; her husband Roy Bryant and his brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Till from his grandfather’s home, then tortured, lynched and shot him in the head before tossing his corpse in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s body was discovered three days later.
Emmett’s mother Mamie Till kept an open casket for her son during his funeral in Chicago. Images of Till’s battered and water-logged body appeared on the cover of Jet and across other media, horrifying the nation. The Milam brothers were acquitted of Till’s murder in September 1955; they eventually confessed to kidnapping and killing the child, but were not prosecuted due to double jeopardy protections.
In partnership, Jay Z and Will Smith have also produced the Quvenzhané Wallis-led musical film Annie as well as Broadway’s Fela.
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Image of Emmett Till’s ring, tagged as court evidence, via AP