WOmen of the Movement, an ABC anthology series about the women of the American civil rights movement often ignored or underrated, begins with tears of agony: that of a young Mamie Till (Broadway star Adrienne Warren), a black woman. whose labor he undergoes are fired by a white nurse in a sterile hospital in 1941. It is indicative of the way ahead, for a series that follows the brutal and racist murder of Mamie’s son, Emmett, by two white men in Mississippi, 1955, to through activism fueled by Mamie’s grief and the eventual acquittal of her killers. But Women of the Movement, crucially, begins with the joy of life: first the infant Emmett, loved by his mother, then the young man whose slaughter set the country on fire.
Created by Marissa Jo Cerar (The Handmaid’s Tale) and executive produced by Jay Z and Will Smith, this first six-part installment jumps from 1941 to the summer of 1955 in Chicago, where Mamie lives with Emmett (Cedric Joe). . a charming, kind-hearted boy, credibly on the cusp of childhood and adolescence, in relative comfort. The series proceeds with strict chronology and signaling of a network procedure. Adventure-hungry Emmett wants to visit his great-uncle Mose (Glynn Turman) in the Mississippi Delta instead of hanging out with his mother and doting boyfriend Gene (Ray Fisher); Mamie is hesitant, fearful of Emmett’s naivete regarding Jim Crow’s ways of the Deep South, but relents. They say a moving farewell at the train station.
Pilot director Gina Prince-Bythewood plays the fateful encounter between Emmett and grocery cashier Carolyn Bryant (Julia McDermott), a white woman, ambiguous enough to reflect existing question marks: We don’t see what Emmett tells her, there is a wolf-whistling but it’s unclear from who it is or for whom, while still being crystal clear on the dynamics: Emmett, playful and kind, acting innocent; Carolyn, bound by a code of hate and fear, reacts sinisterly with anger. At the end of the first episode, Emmett was snatched from his bed by Carolyn’s husband Roy (Carter Jenkins) and his half brother, JW Milam (Chris Coy) and was taken away in a van, never to be seen alive again. .
The remaining five episodes play as a combination of educational and procedural network biopic (with corresponding direct dialogue and production values), focusing on Mamie’s frantic search for her son, challenging her mutilated body to be hidden from the public. and rejection. let the alleged injustice of the south take the day without a fight. “Let people see what they did to my son,” he said, seeing his unrecognizable beaten face, a line from Warren, who sometimes plays Mamie with an exaggerated stage actor emphasis, with a deep reserve of resilience.
At its best, Women of the Movement provocatively explores a chapter in American history that most do not know enough about with sensitivity, fidelity, and care not to exploit the trauma. Directors Julie Dash, Tina Mabry, and Kasi Lemmons emphasize the constant presence of the camera flash and the crowds of reporters surrounding Mamie, a bullying familiar to modern viewers but perhaps not for this story. The series is strongest when embedded in the daunting and thorny work of activism with real-life figures such as Medgar Evers (Tongayi Chirisa), TRM Howard (Alex Désert), Simeon Booker (Miles Fowler) and Ruby Hurley (Leslie Silva). . the head of the southeastern chapter of the NAACP whose nascent friendship with Mamie, as one of the few female leaders, would have made a fascinating double pole for the series.
Instead, his perspective turns unsuccessfully to the white Southerners conducting the Mississippi trial, with a particularly insecure handling of the killers (who confessed to the murder in a 1956 interview, a year after their acquittal). Sometimes, we are privy to the Bryants’ private lives: when Roy confronts Carolyn about the meeting at the store, when JW suggests to Roy that they go after the n-word that made “all that talk in the store”, when Carolyn worries about what to wear and what to say on the day of her testimony, moments that hardly (and comfortably) humanize them and that Mamie might not know. There is a version of this story that delves into the hatred of the Bryants and draws characterizations deep enough to prevent viewers from dismissing them as simply bigoted villains from a different era. But that feels beyond the scope and interest of this show, which is supposed to center Mamie and I wish she had kept the killers within her perspective – contemptuous and hateful figures she sees in the press and in the courtroom. , devoid of empathy or regret. .
Narrowing down the mechanics of a trial with a foregone conclusion, most of the middle of the series, could have made room for some of the show’s most intriguing elements: the generational divide between Mamie and her mother Alma (Tonya Pinkins); the pressure the NAACP exerts on Mamie, a private citizen reeling from an unimaginable tragedy, to speak out in public; tensions between witnesses to Till’s kidnapping and murder, poor Mississippi sharecroppers with every reason to fear any attention, and activists and lawyers seeking justice. These are reasons to trust the vision of the creators, even if you frustrately stray from the woman in the center on your first outing.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism