Keith Beauchamp is a dynamic young documentarian who honed his behind-the-camera skills during the day and spent his evenings doing research and reaching out to anyone who might have information on the Emmett Till case, a story told to Beauchamp when he was just ten years old. It was at this young age that Beauchamp saw a copy of Jet magazine that contained a picture of Emmett Till’s dead body and was told the story behind his murder.
Although it was long believed that Bryant and Milam (Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J. W. Milam who are both now deceased but admitted they killed Till) acted alone, new evidence—much of it provided by Beauchamp’s documentary "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till"—indicates that numerous other individuals may have been involved.2 The death of eighty-six-year-old Juanita Milam barely made head¬lines. Her brief obituary ran in the Biloxi, Mississippi, Sun Herald, but few noticed her passing, despite her being the widow of a killer.
Keith came to Jacksonville in February 2009 to join the Jacksonville Branch NAACP commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the NAACP with a showing of his documentary.
On May 10, 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice reopened this fifty-year-old murder case, calling the 1955 prosecution a “grotesque miscarriage of justice,” and citing Beauchamp’s documentary as the starting point for their investigation. In May of 2005, Emmett’s body was exhumed and the FBI turned over their evidence to the appropriate district attorney in Mississippi.
Two years later, however, the FBI and Mississippi prosecutors closed the book on the Till case. The statute of limitations prevented federal charges from being filed, and state prosecutors determined they did not have sufficient evidence to go after other suspects. Witnesses claimed that Mrs. Bryant was on the truck the night Emmett Till was kidnapped, though she denies any involvement. Some of Emmett’s family members still hold out hope that Mrs. Bryant will be held accountable for her role in the horrific murder, while other relatives say the lengthy investigation has allowed them to put the matter to rest.
In 2007, Tallahatchie County finally issued a formal apology to Till’s family: “We the citizens of Tallahatchie County recognize that the Emmett Till case was a terrible miscarriage of justice. We state candidly and with deep regret the failure to effectively pursue justice. We wish to say to the family of Emmett Till that we are profoundly sorry for what was done in this community to your loved one.”
Georgia congressman John Lewis, whose skull was fractured when he was beaten during the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama, sponsored a bill that provides a plan for investigating and prosecuting unsolved murders from the civil rights era. The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act was signed into law in 2008.
Bolstered by his ability to connect with potential witnesses who otherwise might not come forward in communities where such Civil Rights crimes have occurred, Beauchamp has become a passionate advocate for survivors seeking justice, and has assisted the FBI by developing new leads for some of the still unsolved cases from this shameful troubled chapter in American history. His television series, The Injustice Files, allows him to comb through re¬cords; interview family members, witnesses, and investigators; and piece together the known facts of civil rights murder cases.
The Struggle Continues. RLHSR.