The American Experience: Season 15, Episode 6

The Murder of Emmett Till (20 Jan. 2003)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary | History
7.3
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A documentary examining the 1955 murder of a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago while visiting relatives in Mississippi, and the broad impact of his death, his funeral, and the subsequent ... See full summary »

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Title: The Murder of Emmett Till (20 Jan 2003)

The Murder of Emmett Till (20 Jan 2003) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Episode credited cast:
...
Narrator
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Pat Antici ...
Kidnapper
Oudie Brown ...
Himself
Harry Caise ...
Himself, Mortician
Magnolia Cooksey-Mathious ...
Herself, Emmett Till's Classmate
Tony Czech ...
Kidnapper
Clara Davis ...
Herself, Mississippi Resident
Warren Hampton ...
Himself, Mississippi Resident
Richard Heard ...
HImself, Emmett Till's Classmate
John Herbers ...
Himself, Journalist
Rose Jourdain ...
Herself, Journalist
Moses Newson ...
Himself, Journalist
Wheeler Parker ...
Himself, Emmett Till's Cousin
Betty Pearson ...
Herself, Mississippi Resident
Willie Reed ...
Himself, Mississippi Resident
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A documentary examining the 1955 murder of a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago while visiting relatives in Mississippi, and the broad impact of his death, his funeral, and the subsequent trial and acquittal of his accused killers. Written by Anonymous

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20 January 2003 (USA)  »

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The Murder Of Emmett Till
22 July 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Although this documentary takes some liberties with the truth about lynching, from a purely historical perspective, it is for the most part an accurate and shameful cataloguing of one of the most notorious murders in 20th Century America.

There is much archive footage including of the victim's mother, who almost half a century on, also speaks to the cameras as do many others – black and white – who were part of the case. In fact, Mamie Till died two weeks before this documentary was released.

Arguably more outrageous than the acquittal of her son's murderers was the question put to her by the defense. Till's body had been delivered to his mother in a sealed casket with instructions that it was not to be opened. In view of its condition, this was reasonable, and indeed it would be mandatory in many jurisdictions all things considered. She had though ordered the casket opened, and exhibited the body at his funeral in the Chicago church. On the witness stand it was put to her that the body concerned was not her son, and that she had conspired with the NAACP to perpetrate a hoax. Her son, it was suggested, was very much alive back home in Chicago – and undoubtedly laughing up his sleeve.

These sort of tactics are guaranteed to alienate even the most biased of juries, but not this one, which acquitted the two accused in an hour, and that only because they didn't want to be seen returning with undue haste.

It is possible that if the authorities had not pursued the death penalty the verdict would have been different, but let's not kid ourselves. To add insult to injury, a few months after the trial the two perpetrators sold their story to a national magazine for $4,000. Donald Hume did the same thing in England after being cleared of the murder of his partner-in-crime Stanley Setty, but he had at least spent 8 years in prison after pleading guilty to a lesser charge following a hung jury.

It remains to be seen if the resulting so-called civil rights movement was a fitting legacy for Emmett Till, most of its proponents seem unable to distinguish between forced integration and justice, which at the end of the day is the only thing that is ever warranted.


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