Jay Z, Will Smith Producing Emmett Till Miniseries, Black Teen Murdered For Whistling At White Woman

Sean “Jay Z” Carter and Will Smith last teamed as producers on the 2014 remake of Annie starring budding child actress Quvenzhané Wallis. Now they are reuniting with producer Aaron Kaplan on an HBO miniseries about Emmett Till, the African-American teenager who was brutally murdered in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman.

14-year-old Emmett was murdered as retaliation for what amounts to being a black Northern male unfamiliar with white Southern etiquette. As the story goes, on August 20, 1955, Emmett, along with several cousins and some friends, entered the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market to purchase snacks. 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant was working behind the counter, and after Emmett purchased a pack of gum, she followed him to the door as he was leaving. According to trial testimony, Till “waved to her, saying “goodbye” (instead of “goodbye, ma’am”), and directed a wolf-whistle” at her. This enraged Carolyn, who went to retrieve a gun from a car — sending Till and his frightened companions speeding off in their own car.

Emmett, along with a cousin, 16-year-old Wheeler Parker Jr., had arrived by train from Chicago to Money, Mississippi, a few days prior to the store incident. They had accompanied Till’s great-uncle and Parker’s grandfather, Moses Wright, who was returning home after a brief trip up North, USA Today reported.

Three days after the store incident, Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s brother, and his half-brother, J. W. Milam, forced their way into the home of Moses and grabbed Till out of bed at gunpoint and kidnapped him. Several days later, a young fisherman discovered Emmett’s beaten, swollen, and decomposing body floating in the Tallahatchie River. He had been weighted down with a 75-pound cotton gin fan.

Roy and Milam were arrested shortly after the abduction and went on trial for murder on September 19, 1955. An all-white jury acquitted them five days later. They would eventually admit to murdering Till but avoided further prosecution.

When Kaplan pitched the miniseries idea to Jay and Will, they were immediately sold. No writer is attached to the untitled miniseries yet, which is expected to run six hours, according to Variety, and no release date has been set. Jay Brown and James Lassiter will also serve as executive producers, alongside Jay Z, Smith, and Kaplan. The project marks another collaboration between Carter, and HBO, as the network aired his concert special with his wife Beyonce, On the Run Tour: Beyoncé and Jay Z.

Time reports that there are several other Emmett Till projects currently in the works: one backed by Roger Ebert’s widow, Chaz Ebert. A previous Inquisitr article reported that she is working with Shatterglass Films to bring the story to the big screen. The other project was adapted from David Barr and Mamie Till Mobley’s play, The Face of Emmett Till.

Jay Z’s company Roc Nation helped produce over a dozen projects, including Chris Rock’s Top Five, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, and 2012’s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a documentary about civil rights activist Angela Davis. Most notably, Jay Z served as producer on the Broadway musical “Fela!,” which celebrated the work of the late Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Jigga became involved with the play after seeing it during its Off-Broadway run.

“It’s an inspiration, about the power of music. Here’s a guy that’s on the other side of the world who was influenced by James Brown, who takes this thing and makes his own sort of genre of music,” Jay Z told MTV News of Fela during a 2009 interview. “I just think it’s fascinating.”

Jay Z recently invested in an app called JetSmarter, which allows users to book a private jet in a matter of seconds. The app launched in 2013 and is considered the Uber of private jets. It’s available for iOS and Android, and allows users to create custom charter flights to anywhere in the world — year round.

In related news, Jay Z was recently named one of the most lyrically diverse rappers by Italian website Musixmatch – which dubs itself “the world’s largest lyrics catalogue.”

[Image via RepMan]