EXCLUSIVE: Emmett Till was only 14 when the black teen was brutally murdered after allegedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. The tragic story that galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement is the subject of an HBO miniseries from a A-list producing team that includes Jay-Z, Will Smith and Aaron Kaplan.
Chicago native Till was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi in August 1955 when he spoke and possibly flirted with Carolyn Bryant, the 21-year-old White co-owner of a local grocery store, reportedly asking her on a date. Several nights later, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam went to Till’s great-uncle’s house, forcefully took him and tortured him before shooting him in the head throwing his body in the Tallahatchie River.
Till’s mother Mamie insisted on an open-casket public funeral, with the image of the boy’s mutilated body shocking the country. (The original casket is now at the Smithsonian.) In September 1955, Bryant and Milam were acquitted of Till’s kidnapping and murder though later admitted to killing him under the shield of the double jeopardy provision.
Mamie did a very successful tour for NAACP telling the story of her son, which is considered a tipping point for the civil rights movement.
Three months after Till’s death and two months after the trial, Rosa Parks of Montgomery AL refused to give up her seat to a white bus rider. “I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn’t go back,” she later recalled.
The Emmett Till story has been the subject of a 2003 feature documentary, a PBS program and a 60 Minutefeature. (watch the CBS video below).
This marks the first miniseries project for Kaplan, who has upcoming HBO comedy series Divorce starring Sarah Jessica Parker. It also reunites Jay-Z and Smith who, along with Brown and Lassiter, served as producers on the 2014 Annie remake.
On the longform side, HBO is in production on the movie Confirmation about Clarence Thomas’ Senate hearings, which stars Kerry Washington as Anita Hill. Overbrook’s deal was negotiated by attorney Jason Sloane, Roc Nation’s by Matt Johnson.