This year will mark 60 years since his life was ripped away in the most barbaric way imaginable. Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, made a courageous decision to have an open casket funeral and forced the nation to confront the true face of Jim Crow. Till’s murder was a national tragedy but it also formed an essential pillar for the civil rights movement. It’s overdue but there’s a lot of momentum gathering on several Emmett Till projects in Hollywood, one of which just received a major boost.
According to Deadline, Jay Z and Will Smith have lent their considerable star power to an Emmett Till miniseries entering production at HBO. The project is being described as an immersive look at Till’s life up to that point and the aftermath of his death. While this Jay Z/Will Smith backed project is coming out of the gates strong, there are two other Emmett Till projects in varied states of development according to Variety.
One of the projects is called, The Face of Emmett Till. The Skyland Pictures and FireRock Bay Pictures production is based on the play co-written by David Barr III and Mamie Till. The last project is spearheaded by Chaz Ebert, the widow of influential film critic Roger Ebert. Her film will be based on the book, Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America, a book co-written by Christopher Benson and Mamie Till.
Till’s martyrdom helped ignite the simmering embers of the civil rights movement. His murder is ingrained into the psyche of the American consciousness. It put a human face on Black suffering, a child’s face on racism. Mamie Till’s grief was on display for the entire world and she became the universal embodiment of every mother’s deepest fear.
Despite Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam’s heinous efforts, Emmett Till’s story didn’t stay dead. Any project that reminds the world of these atrocities fueled by racism can only help. As seen with Selma earlier this year, sometimes it takes the canvas of cinema or television to show the true significance of a major event that is often taken for granted in the annals of history.