Jesse Williams Facing Criticism For Using An Emmett Till Meme To Promote His Movie

September 25, 2018  |  


Just hours after it was revealed actor and activist Jesse Williams would direct a film about Emmett Till’s mother, the project is already immersed in controversy.

The actor reportedly paired haunting images of Till’s mother, Mamie, weeping over the casket of her slain son, with language and imagery from Colin Kaepernick’s recent Nike ad campaign with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Disappointed fans pointed out the language was inappropriate because, unlike Kaerpernick, Mamie was forced into activism after the brutal murder of her son.

The photos were quickly taken down, but the impact was still felt across social media.

According to, one fan wrote in the aftermath,

“Thank you for taking down those other bullsh*t ass memes. You need to delete this one too. This is not a game. I think you know that.”

On Twitter, another comment said:  “A Black mother’s pain at the horrific murder of her son should not be counted as “sacrifice” and even her decision for an open casket is not properly framed as “sacrifice” or something to believe in.”

Another social media user noted, “I feel like Jesse Williams intent was good, but just the fact that you’re using a pic of a mothers pain at a funeral while turning it into a Nike meme, is sort of distasteful and not thought all the way through. Maybe he could’ve used a pic of Emmett’s mom while she was smiling.”

Williams’ directorial film debut, which will focus on Mamie’s life in the years following her son’s death, was written by screenwriter Michael Reilly and Keith A. Beauchamp. Beauchamp’s documentary, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” is credited with reopening the case of the 14-year-old boy murdered for whistling at a white woman, 63 years after his death.

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