Till the movie: Black trauma and truth from Hollywood

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"Till" is the latest movie to capture the historical events around one of the most traumatic crimes in American history. The fact that the crime was carried out against a child makes it all the more riveting and yet we explore the realities, falsehoods, and trauma that come with films of this sort.

 




 

10-21-22

We debate if they should even be made or if they should what purpose they serve. You'll get to meet the chat room All-Stars who help lend their expertise and insight to the issue. Black trauma to the eyes of Hollywood has been a consistent element that continues to create debate and dialogue.

To be clear and for rthe record, Emmett Louis Till was a 14-year-old African American boy who was abducted, tortured, and lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, in her family's grocery store. During summer vacation in August 1955, Till was visiting relatives near Money, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta region. He spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the white, married proprietor of a small grocery store there. Although what happened at the store is a matter of dispute, Till was accused of flirting with, touching, or whistling at Bryant. Till's interaction with Bryant, perhaps unwittingly, violated the unwritten code of behavior for a black male interacting with a white female in the Jim Crow-era South. Whether the accusation was true of false, the issue meant a death sentence for young Till.

Several nights after the incident in the store, Bryant's husband, Roy, and his half-brother J.W. Milam, who were armed, went to Till's great-uncle's house and abducted Emmett. They took him away then beat and mutilated him before shooting him in the head and sinking his body in the Tallahatchie River. Three days later, the boy’s mutilated and bloated body was discovered and retrieved from the river.

Most of that debate and dialogue centers around the violence being depicted against black people through crime, lynching, slavery and other images that are difficult for many to continually experience. And then there's the element of truth. Dozens of films have been made supposedly capturing the history of an event or a person.

CThe film is a take on the trauma and struggle that Black Mothers endure when they lose a child, or a grown person. The pain and trauma remains for a lifetime. The mother in this story made a remarkable decision when her son's body was returned to Chicago. Realizing that the brutal Ccrime would lead to national media attention, and Black media in particular, she allowed the casket to remain open for all to see. It was riviting and still is.

But to tell the story later on film, there are chall;enges to making it entertaining. In many cases creative liberties are taken by the writers and producers to tell him more exciting story but then, we have the element of lies.

These are what's being explored in this episode of Hollywood spotlight exploring black trauma and the latest movie till about the murder of a child from Chicago in Mississippi by a Lynch mob. The impact of the movie may result in some insight into how horrible things were in the days of Jim Crow. The impact of Till's murder will likely have an impact for centuries to come. More films and other accounts are likely to follow this story.


In September 1955, an all-white jury found Bryant and Milam not guilty of Till's murder. Protected against double jeopardy, the two men publicly admitted in a 1956 interview with Look magazine that they had tortured and murdered the boy, selling the story of how they did it for $4,000.

Till's murder was seen as a catalyst for the next phase of the civil rights movement. In December 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott began in Alabama and lasted more than a year, resulting eventually in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregated buses were unconstitutional.

According to historians, events surrounding Till's life and death continue to resonate. An Emmett Till Memorial Commission was established in the early 21st century. The Sumner County Courthouse was restored and includes the Emmett Till Interpretive Center. Fifty-one sites in the Mississippi Delta are memorialized as associated with Till. The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, an American law which makes lynching a federal hate crime, was signed into law on March 29, 2022 by President Joe Biden.



 


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