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Filmmaker Keith Beauchamp talks about his efforts to solve murders of blacks committed during one of the most shameful periods of American history

Kam Williams | 6/15/2011, 12:36 p.m.
Keith Beauchamp’s new TV series, “The Injustice Files,” chronicles investigative efforts to solve civil rights murders. Keith Beauchamp

Filmmaker Keith Beauchamp talks about his efforts to solve murders of blacks committed during one of the most shameful periods of American history

Award-winning filmmaker Keith Beauchamp found his calling while making his first documentary about Emmett Louis Till, the 14-year-old black boy who was abducted and tortured to death in August of 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The suspects subsequently arrested for the lynching were all acquitted by an all-white jury.

That heart-wrenching story of a young boy, beaten, shot and thrown in a river, ignited the early civil rights movement. Decades later, the case was re-opened by the FBI because Beauchamp uncovered new information in the course of his research for “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till.”

Bolstered by his ability to connect with potential witnesses who otherwise might not come forward in communities where such civil rights crimes have occurred, Beauchamp has become a passionate advocate for survivors seeking justice for victims and has assisted the FBI by developing new leads for some of the still unsolved cases from this shameful, troubled chapter in American history.

For his new TV series, “The Injustice Files,” Beauchamp combs through records; interviews family members, witnesses and investigators; and pieces together the known facts of each case. Beauchamp also attempts to interview potential suspects and individuals who may know who was responsible for these murders, sometimes confronting them in their driveways after attempts to contact them for interviews prove unsuccessful.

Here, director/producer/host Beauchamp talks about “The Injustice Files” which airs on the Investigation Discovery Network. Check local listings for airtimes.

What gave you the idea for “The Injustice Files?”

“The Injustice Files” is an extension of my previous work profiling civil rights murders from the 1950s and 1960s. It’s my third TV production produced in collaboration with the FBI’s Civil Rights Cold Case Initiative that began in 2007.

Tell me a little about the series.

The series is a 3-part docu- series produced by CBS News’ heavyweight, Susan Zirinsky and Eye Too Productions and premiered on Investigation Discovery. It follows the investigative efforts of myself and the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit Chief, Cynthia Deitle. There are three unsolved civil rights murders from the 1960s, of Wharlest Jackson, Oneal Moore and William Lewis Moore, that we hope to get solved.

How hard was it to get the series off the ground, given the popular notion of America being post-racial?

It’s challenging to get a project of this nature green-lighted for TV. When I walk into a network, I always have to prove why this project is so important for this day and time. When you speak about injustices and the civil rights movement, many feel that it’s a thing of the past and it’s a black issue, but in reality it’s an American issue. These are murders that need to be solved to help bring justice and closure for the victims’ families and we have all benefited from the American civil rights movement. Racism still exists in this country and to forget our past we are doomed to repeat it.