By McKenzie Womack | LSU Student
Surviving family members of victims of Civil Rights murders consider Keith Beauchamp a champion. He investigates forgotten and current cases, making documentaries designed to bring closure to those families.
Southern University Monday showed films by Beauchamp, the Baton Rouge native providing commentary, to kick off Black History Month program.
Named "America's Civil Rights Journey – Uncovered" Real…to Reel" included unsolved Civil Rights cases from Beauchamp's four-part documentary "Murder in Black & White," which is about the FBI's attempt to bring justice to unsolved cold cases, and "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till," an award-winning documentary.
The U.S. Department of Justice reopened the Emmett Till case in 2004, citing the documentary as a major factor for conducting another investigation. Congress enacted the Emmett Till Act of 2007 included some 125 additional cold cases from the 1950s and 1960s to the FBI investigative caseload.
Beauchamp studied criminal justice at Southern University from 1989 to 1991. But he said that after an incident in which he was assaulted by an undercover police officer for dancing with a white woman, he left college and moved to New York to pursue a career in filmmaking.
Beauchamp spent 10 years investigating the Emmett Till case. The FBI's decision to reopen the case was "refreshing and overwhelming," he said.
Southern held a reception and pre-screening for the series Sunday night at which, Beauchamp urged people to continue fighting for civil rights.
"We are still far from stopping the injustices that plague our community. Have we truly arrived? Do we live in a post-racial society? … Are we living the dream Dr. King and others wanted us to? We still have a fight on our hands."
Patricia Flood, Southern University's coordinator for special events, called the documentaries "meaningful" and "relevant," something that should be done. "It's something everybody should know in terms of American history."
The schedule also included episodes from Beauchamp's show "The Injustice Files," a program on Investigation Discovery where Beauchamp investigates Civil Rights cold cases. The murder of Wharlest Jackson is a part of "The Injustice Files." Jackson's car was bombed in 1967 after he accepted at promotion to a position in the chemical mixing plant at Armstrong Tire & Rubber in Natchez, Miss., a job typically held by a white man.
Jackson's son, Wharlest Jackson, Jr., who found his father that day, said at the reception that the "struggle is continuous. The freedoms we now enjoy were paid for with somebody's blood, somebody's struggle."
Four of "The Injustice Files" cases will be shown Tuesday in the Cotillion Ballroom of the Smith-Brown Memorial Union.