In the summer of 1955, a 14-year-old Chicago boy whistled at a white woman in Mississippi and for that was tortured, beaten, and shot to death. His suspected killers were acquitted by an all-white jury in just over an hour. His name was Emmett Till. And in 2017, as Black Lives Matter draws attention to police killings of unarmed people of color, and as white supremacists receive renewed public exposure, Hollywood is asking moviegoers to say Till’s name—loudly. (This season has already brought forth two compelling books: Duke scholar Timothy Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till as well as Writing to Save a Life, a meditation by PEN/Faulkner honoree John Edgar Wideman.) On the horizon is a six-episode HBO series—with Jay Z, Will Smith, and Casey Affleck among the executive producers—based on Devery Anderson’s 2015 biography, Emmett Till. Next, Whoopi Goldberg (who is also directing), Fred Zollo (Mississippi Burning, Ghosts of Mississippi), and Keith A. Beauchamp will produce a film based on a script co-written by Beauchamp, who, a dozen years ago, sparked renewed legal interest in the case through his powerful documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till.
Taraji P. Henson will portray Till’s mother, the late Mamie Till-Mobley, in the tentatively titled The Emmett Till Story. The collaboration between Henson and Singleton has been in the developmental rumor mill for some time.
Mamie Till famously chose to give her son, Emmett, an open-casket funeral after the 14-year-old boy was lynched by J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant. Jet magazine and The Chicago Reader published photos of his body, providing photographic evidence of the violence that White supremacists inflicted on African Americans.
With the huge success Henson has had over the past few years (Empire, Think Like a Man, Hidden Figures), the announcement of this project should stoke public interest as audiences prepare to see Henson’s latest project, Proud Mary.