In 2008, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act was signed into law, lifting the veil on more than 150 victims of racially motivated violence, for whom there still has been no justice.
This month FRONTLINE will premiere American Reckoning, which explores the 1967 killing of NAACP leader Wharlest Jackson in Natchez, Mississippi. Produced in collaboration with Retro Report, the film is the latest component of FRONTLINE’s Un(re)solved initiative, an interactive investigation of civil rights-era cold case murders, which includes a website, podcast, augmented-reality installation, a high school curriculum and a series of in-person and virtual events.
American Reckoning includes intimate, never-before-seen archival film footage from the Ed Pincus collection made available to FRONTLINE through the Amistad Research Center. Based on the collaboration and groundbreaking reporting of the Concordia Sentinel journalist Stanley Nelson, American Reckoning looks into allegations of the involvement of a Ku Klux Klan offshoot, known as the Silver Dollar Group, in Jackson’s murder.
“To understand the present, we must look to the past — and American Reckoning does that in a unique way, complementing the investigative reporting and storytelling seen in our larger Un(re)solved initiative,” says GBH’s Raney Aronson-Rath, executive producer of FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series.
The film also examines the limitations of the Till Act effort and why families like the Jacksons believe the government has failed them.
“We are at a crucial moment in our country where the stories of White terrorism and Black resistance need to be unearthed in order to truly reckon with our political situation today,” says producer and director Yoruba Richen.
The Jackson family story is “a tough one to share and one that reveals the depths of White denial about our nation’s racist violence, as resonant and urgent today as it was 55 years ago,” says producer and director Brad Lichtenstein.
American Reckoning airs Tuesday, February 15, at 10pm on GBH 2 and on the PBS Video App.
Meet the directors on February 17 for American Reckoning: A Virtual Conversation with Directors Brad Lichtenstein and Yoruba Richen. RSVP here.