Actor Will Smith and hip-hop superstar Jay Z are teaming up to bring the Emmett Till story to the small screen.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the powerhouse duo will co-produce a miniseries on the civil rights icon for HBO. The still untitled project will retell the story of the 14-year-old African-American from Chicago who was killed while visiting relatives in Mississippi after he allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman.
Emmett Till died sixty years ago this August. He was abducted in the middle of the night and then beaten, tortured and shot in the head. His body was eventually dragged out of the Tallahatchie River tied to a cotton-gin fan with barbed wire.
Till’s death helped galvanize the civil rights movement, especially after his mother, Mamie Till, allowed historically black publications The Chicago Defender and Jet magazine to publish the gruesome images of his mutilated corpse unedited. She also held an open casket funeral for her son, which forced the nation to confront the unspeakable brutality of racial violence at the time.
Till’s killers, Carolyn’s husband Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were acquitted by an all-white jury and later sold their stories, in which they bragged about murdering him, to Look magazine. Neither man was ever brought to justice.
There has never been a narrative film made about Till, but a 2003 PBS-produced documentary called “The Murder of Emmett Till,” which interviewed surviving witnesses and uncovered new evidence about the crime, led to a brief re-opening of the case. Till’s body was exhumed in 2005 and another autopsy was performed. However, in 2007 a grand jury chose not to indict Carolyn Bryant for her alleged involvement in the death of Till.
Smith and Jay Z collaborated previously on the modern movie-musical “Annie,” the Broadway production of “Fela!” and the rapper’s “Live in Brooklyn” concert alongside his wife, Beyoncé.