Filmmaker Keith A. Beauchamp doesn't hide the fact that he's on a mission, and that he's already accomplished more of that mission than the Mississippi criminal justice system and the federal Justice Department.
Mr. Beauchamp, a Louisiana native whose parents taught him the story of Emmett Till, has become a major player in getting the U.S. Justice Department to reopen the case.
Speaking to about 200 people at the University of Toledo yesterday, Mr. Beauchamp said he hopes five people who authorities now believe took part in the kidnapping, beating, and death of the 14-year-old African-American Chicagoan in 1955 will be indicted.
Mr. Beauchamp, 33, said he has been working for the past nine years on a documentary and feature film about the Till case, interviewing numerous witnesses and others with direct knowledge of the incident.
Young Till was vacationing in Money, Miss., visiting relatives when he whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, at a store Mrs. Bryant and her husband, Roy Bryant, owned.
Four days later, two men went to the home of Moses Wright, where the Till youth was staying, and kidnapped him. Mr. Wright said a person in a car at his house at the time identified the teenager as the person who whistled at Mrs. Bryant.
The youth's decomposing body was found several days later in the Tallahatchie River.
No one was ever convicted of the crime. Mr. Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were found not guilty of murdering young Till, but confessed to the murder during an interview with Look magazine, published in 1956 for $4,000.
Mr. Beauchamp, whose research on the Till case was highlighted recently in a segment on 60 Minutes, said he found in his investigation that at least 14 people took part in either the kidnapping, beating, or murder of young Till. He said five of those people, including Mrs. Bryant, are still living.
Mr. Bryant died of cancer in 1994; Mr. Milam died of bone cancer in 1981.
Mr. Beauchamp's research was compelling enough to lead the Justice Department to reopen the case last May. Mr. Beauchamp said he has been working with the FBI since the case was reopened, adding that he is confident some of the people connected with the case will be brought to justice.
Mr. Beauchamp, who attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, said the Till case was not just the murder of a youth, but an act of terrorism against African-Americans.
"All [the public knows] is about the two white men, but there were about 14 others individuals who took part in the kidnapping and murder," Mr. Beauchamp said before his speech. "Five of them were black. I think that will surprise some people. They were employees of Bryant and Milam who I believed were forced to participate. It was either them or Till."
He said his only regret is that young Till's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, didn't live long enough to see the case go to trial. She died in 2003. But Mr. Beauchamp conducted one of the last interviews with her, during which she discussed the events surrounding her son's death.
Mr. Beauchamp said several distribution companies have approached him about his 70-minute documentary. He said the most important issue is getting word out about the case.
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