The Murder of Emmett Till

Director: Stanley Nelson
Screenwriters: Marcia Smith

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


Put into a historical context, the horrific murder of young Emmett Till can be viewed as a precursor to the civil rights movement. Stanley Nelson's top-notch new film examines the climate surrounding the tragic incident that took place in the summer of 1955 in the Mississippi Delta. The film's inclusion of Emmett Till's mother, Mamie, and other key witnesses provides immediate, harrowing insight into the events surrounding the injustice.

Emmett Till was a 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago visiting relatives that fateful August. A few days after he supposedly whistled at a white store owner's wife, he disappeared in the night. His body was soon found floating in a nearby river, and the store owner and another man were arrested for the brutal murder. At the trial, an all white jury acquitted the men despite eyewitness testimony that implicated them. The case proved again that an African American man's life in the rural South was completely expendable.

When Mamie Till decided to put her son's mutilated body on display, thousands of people came to see it. The world became witness to what had happened, and the story captured the attention of the nation. This revealing portrait of an unjust society is not to be missed.

— Lisa Viola

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards


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