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Jay-Z and Will Smith to produce new HBO miniseries based on tragic death of young boy

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Rapper and music mogul Jay-Z and actor and former musician Will Smith are teaming up with Aaron Kaplan to produce a miniseries about Emmett Till, a young, African American man who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955, reports Variety.

Till’s story is a rather tragic one: the boy, just 14 at the time of his death, was supposedly killed simply because he had flirted, and possibly made sexual advances toward an older, white woman who ran a local grocery store. The woman’s husband and his half-brother brutally attacked the boy, gouging out one of his eyes, shooting him in the head, and throwing his body in the river. Wanting to bring attention to the sheer brutality of the attack, Till’s mother held an open casket funeral in his hometown of Chicago. His funeral attracted thousands, and spurred a discussion on race relations, lynching, and racism, and was integral to motivations behind the Civil Rights Movement.

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To make matters worse, both offenders were acquitted of the crime, later admitting that they, in fact, did it, since they were protected by double jeopardy laws which prevent someone from being tried for the same crime twice. Part of the problem was that his body was so badly mutilated that they could not properly identify Till. His body was exhumed just over a decade ago and properly identified.

It will be interesting to see how the project’s writer, who has yet to be named, will go about drawing out this story based around one (very) climactic event over the span of six hours. But both Jay-Z and Smith reportedly jumped at the opportunity to participate when approached by Kaplan.

Jay Brown and James Lassiter will also be executive producers. The series, which has yet to be named, will come from Kapital Entertainment, Overbrook Entertainment, and Roc Nation.

This isn’t the first time that Jay-Z and Smith have collaborated on a project: they both served as producers for the 2014 remake version of Annie, which starred Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, and Cameron Diaz. The movie was largely panned by critics.

This miniseries, however, takes on a rather serious topic, and has potential Emmy nomination written all over it.

Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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