The case of 14-year-old Emmett Till was the catalyst of the civil rights movement.
Within that same year, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. would become even bigger tidal waves of change.
In the movie “Till,” director Chinonye Chukwu highlighted Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, and her perspective after finding out about the brutal murder of her son.
Originally from the city of Chicago, Till was visiting family in Money, Mississippi when he made the mistake of saying “bye baby” to the clerk of a grocery store.
Carolyn Bryant Donham accused Till of harassing her verbally, grabbing her by the waist and whistling at her.
According to The Vault FBI records, she said that instead of taking the money, the boy caught her hand with a firm grip. She claimed that after pulling away, he continued to make advances towards her until another boy escorted him out of the store.
In the movie, Chukwu vividly displays this interaction and creates an intensity I could feel through the screen. Personally, I did not want to watch this movie on its initial release. This is because I didn’t want to see an obviously racist act on an innocent child. The movie does not display the actual act of violence, but it does humanize and give life to a boy’s nationally historic death.
Although I do understand that Chukwu’s main purpose for creating this film was to shine light on what Till-Mobley did for her son, there has to be a way to honor them without emotionally hitting Black audiences. We already see this injustice on the news, so who would willingly want to go to a theater to watch it there too?
I could barely watch the reveal of Till’s body completely mutilated in the morgue. The revelation in Till-Mobley’s face when she saw what these two white men had done to her son was heartbreaking. I had to mute her cries while watching because I could feel her loss so deeply.
This is the last biopic movie I will be watching because of the mental strain it has caused on my personal identity.
Black American history is traumatizing. That is a fact, not an observation.
I agree that people need to see the importance of how Till-Mobley’s activism and decision to not hide her son’s body was historic for the civil rights movement, but it is excruciatingly painful to watch from a mother’s perspective.
There has to be more to our history other than hate.
To Black filmmakers, there must be a way to accurately represent the lost figures of our history without reigniting rage and sadness. Similar to this case, we have seen multiple stories of Black people dying for simply living.
There was a line in the movie where actor Danielle Deadwyler reassures her nephews, they didn’t know this would happen. I broke down in tears.