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Bringing Emmett Till's story to the silver screen

Keith Beauchamp has spent his life dedicated to the story of Emmett Till. On October 14, his movie, "Till", premieres in theaters nationwide.
FILE - This May 4, 2005, file photo shows Emmett Till's photo on his grave marker in Alsip, Ill. (Robert A. Davis/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — “If we can say that the civil rights movement was one of the most important movements that was ever created by the citizens of this country, more successful than any other movement we’ve ever seen, then you must understand the story of Emmett Louis Till," said Keith Beauchamp, co-writer and producer of the movie "Till".

The movie tells the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley’s quest for justice after her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, was lynched while visiting Mississippi in 1955.

According to Beauchamp, the actions that Till-Mobley took after her son’s murder had a profound impact on the American Civil Rights Movement.

“She had an open casket funeral so the world could see what happened to her son. It woke a sleeping generation to the ills of injustice that we have been faced with in this country." Beauchamp said. 

As a child, Beauchamp’s parents would use Till’s story as a cautionary tale.

“When I got into high school, I was interracially dating, and the first thing my parents would tell me before I left the house at night was ‘Don’t let what happened to Emmett Till happen to you,’ but it wasn’t until two weeks before my high school graduation that I had my real run-in with racism when I was assaulted by undercover police officers for dancing with a white classmate of mine. That’s what spurred me to wanting to fight injustice," Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp spent nearly a decade producing the documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, which led to the reopening of the Emmett Till case five decades after his death. According to Beauchamp, progress has been made, but the case is still being fought. 

Although he has traveled the country sharing Emmett Till’s story, Beauchamp believes there is still much work to be done on race relations in America.

“I think things cosmetically have changed, but the fight for civil and human rights remains the same. We are still fighting those same social ills that we were fighting back in 1955, which is why I say that there is no other story that speaks to this generation, this time, this political backdrop, than the story of Emmett Till, because we are seeing every day, Emmett Till’s on the streets of America being slaughtered," Beauchamp said. 

Still, Beauchamp intends to continue spreading Emmett Till’s story in the hopes of a brighter future, and believes his new movie is a good place to start. 

"Nothing hits you more than a visual, and it was the visual of Emmett Till that sparked generations of folks to fight the good fight," Beauchamp said. 

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