The Murder of Emmett Till | Chicago Reader

The Murder of Emmett Till

Stanley Nelson's 2002 documentary retells the powerful story of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicago boy who visited Mississippi in 1955, made the mistake of insulting a white woman, and was abducted, tortured, and killed. I was grateful for the attention paid to Till's mother, Mamie, whose insistence on displaying her son's mangled corpse to 50,000 fellow Chicagoans dramatized the miscarriage of justice when a Mississippi jury acquitted the known killers. But Nelson's frequent use of spirituals on the sound track is needlessly sappy, and Marcia A. Smith's script is parochial in some respects. She concludes that the Till case sparked the civil rights movement, which is certainly accurate, yet many subsequent horror stories fanned the flames. She also implies that white southerners unanimously supported such atrocities, omitting any mention of Alabama reporter William Bradford Huie, who bribed Till's killers into confessing and later made a career of defying southern racism. 53 min.

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