When it’s suggested that the 14-year-old Emmett leave Chicago to visit Mississippi in 1955, staying with his great-uncle Mose Wright (Glynn Turman, terrific as always), she warns him about the culture in the Jim Crow South, reminding him, as he repeats, to “keep my eyes down” around White people.
Hanging out with some other boys, Emmett is essentially dared into going into a grocery store, where he smiles at the White woman behind the counter (Julia McDermott). When someone whistles as she leaves it sets off a flurry of racist hysteria, leading to her husband (Carter Jenkins) and brother-in-law (Chris Coy) abducting Emmett, who is later found dead.
The fact that viewers don’t immediately see what transpired doesn’t make those events, or Mamie’s grief, any less devastating. Yet “Women of the Movement” — assembled from a pair of books, including Till-Mobley’s memoir — doesn’t really hit its stride until the mother begins pursuing justice for her son, enlisting reporters and working with the NAACP.
Justice, however, is an elusive commodity, even with a prosecutor (Gil Bellows) willing to pursue the case, going up against a lawyer (Timothy Hutton) eager to tap into the community’s bigotry.
The final chapters (the six parts will air in three weekly installments) become a bit too much of a conventional courtroom drama, down to the balmy ambiance, before Till-Mobley pivots to dealing with the aftermath of the trial and finding her voice as a civil-rights leader.
The title actually signals this story as the first in what’s intended to be an anthology devoted to different women who played key roles in the movement. In addition, ABC will supplement the drama with a docuseries, “Let the World See,” devoted to Till-Mobley’s activism.
“Women of the Movement” premieres Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.