JACKSON, Miss. — As an African-American teenager in Louisiana, Keith Beauchamp tried interracial dating – behaviour that prompted his parents to tell him the grisly tale of Emmett Till, who was murdered for whistling at a white woman.
The story of Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who had come to Mississippi to visit his uncle in August 1955, was seared into Beauchamp’s mind and, when he moved to New York to begin his career as a filmmaker, the slaying was his first major project.
Beauchamp’s 2005 documentary on Till, in large part, led the federal government to reopen the 1955 murder case. Last year, a grand jury declined to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham, the object of the whistle, on a manslaughter charge. The two men who brutally beat the teen and dumped his body in a river died years ago.
Still, Beauchamp’s documentary expertise and his ability to persuade people to talk about buried secrets of the civil rights era have earned him a rare collaboration with the FBI.
Now, Beauchamp is filming a series of documentaries based on civil rights killings for the cable channel History as well as TV One. Any new evidence Beauchamp uncovers is shared with the FBI for its Cold Case Unit that focuses on crimes that have gone unpunished from that era.
In turn, the FBI is arranging interviews for Beauchamp with veteran agents who covered the cases and other contacts, said agency spokesman Ernie Porter.