Chaz Ebert, film producer and widow of Roger Ebert, is working on a feature film about Emmett Till, the Chicago teen whose brutal murder helped shape the Civil Rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s. The film will specifically adapt the 2004 Pulitzer Prize-nominated book Death Of Innocence: The Story Of The Hate Crime That Changed America, an autobiography written by Till’s mother Mamie Till-Mobley with journalist Christopher Benson. As Ebert explains, “The full Emmett Till story needs to be told now and told well as a narrative for our times, given all that is happening on American streets today.”
In 1955, 14-year-old Till was visiting Mississippi when he was kidnapped, brutally tortured, and shot in the head for reportedly flirting with a white woman. And while racist hate crimes were an all too common reality in the Jim Crow South, what makes Till’s story unique is that his mother insisted on an open-coffin funeral and encouraged newspapers to carry the images of her son’s mutilated body. Subsequently, his death became a galvanizing force in the Civil Rights movement. Death Of Innocence tells the larger story of Till-Mobley and her role in the Civil Rights movement and beyond, although it remains to be seen exactly where the film will put its focus.