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The Ballads of Emmett Till

Emmett Till, 14 and black, was lynched in Mississippi on August 28 1955. Maria Margaronis travels through landscape and memory to explore stories around a black life that mattered.

Emmett Till, 14 & black, was put on the train from Chicago by his mother Mamie in August 1955. She got him back in a pine box. His corpse mutilated & stinking. He had been beaten, shot and dumped in the Tallahatchie River for supposedly whistling at a white woman. His killers would forever escape justice.

What Mamie did next helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement & make Emmett the sacrificial lamb of the movement. From the very first Till's death was both a call to political action & the subject of songs, poetry & prose. Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell & many more have been drawn to tell his tale-his is the never ending ballad of a black life that mattered.

His disfigured image from the legendary photograph in Jet magazine is seared into the memories of generations of Black Americans. And now Till has returned to haunt America. Taken up by the mothers and fathers of the slain in the Black Lives Matter movement, the subject of new documentaries, a trio of forthcoming Hollywood films & a new FBI investigation as the search for justice continues. His coffin lies at the heart of the Washington's new museum of African American history-a secular shrine & symbol of the enduring pain of American racism.

Maria Margaronis draws on archive from Washington University St Louis, home to the interviews for the groundbreaking series Eyes on the Prize & rare recordings of the Till family conducted by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp. She travels through landscape & memory across Mississippi & Chicago, listening to historians, poets, writers & Till family members as she grapples with the many layers of meaning & the many, many ways Emmett's story has been told & retold. These are the Ballads of Emmett Till.

Producer Mark Burman.

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58 minutes