‘Un(re)solved,’ One Year Later
THU., JUNE 16, 2022 — One of the most contentious debates to unfold in recent years in America is how we talk about the history of race in our nation. How does our past, and our willingness to fully reckon with it, impact how we address systemic racism, inequity and racist violence?
This question is at the heart of Un(re)solved, FRONTLINE and partners’ award-winning, multiplatform experience examining a federal effort to grapple with America’s legacy of racist killings through the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act.
Un(re)solved includes many parts: an immersive, web-based interactive experience; a podcast miniseries; an augmented-reality installation touring schools, libraries and museums; a broadcast documentary; and educational curriculum and events.
One year after the debut of this major initiative, FRONTLINE and its partners have utilized this project’s many storytelling mediums to engage with and educate audiences across the world. The project has been recognized with numerous awards, including the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam’s Award for Digital Storytelling, the Social Impact Media Awards’ accolade for Journalistic Achievement & Creative Advocacy, SXSW’s Innovation Award for Visual Media Experience, and the Scripps Howard Award for Excellence in Multimedia Journalism.
Since the project’s worldwide debut at the Tribeca Festival in June 2021, FRONTLINE has been working to connect this seminal work of journalism and innovative storytelling with audiences and communities across the nation, both virtually and in person. Explore the many ways to experience Un(re)solved below.
Un(re)solved: The Interactive
In the Un(re)solved interactive, audiences enter a digital forest of quilted memories to learn about four people whose untimely deaths were re-examined as part of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act.
To lead the creative vision for both the interactive and the augmented-reality installation, FRONTLINE partnered with Ado Ato Pictures, an award-winning studio founded by interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker and technologist Tamara Shogaolu. Shogaolu rooted Un(re)solved in the powerful symbolism of trees. By turning the forests depicted throughout the project into beautiful spaces, she sought to subvert the trees’ dark historical symbolism, reclaiming them for African Americans. Shogaolu was also inspired by the African American tradition of quilting. Among enslaved African Americans forbidden to read or write, quilts provided an important space to document family stories.
The Un(re)solved interactive web experience allows audiences to travel through time and act as a source of light as they move their cursors to illuminate the imagery – essentially “turning the light of truth upon” these stories, in the famous words of Ida B Wells. Voice-recognition software allows users to speak the names of the victims, unlocking entry into the forests where the stories unfold.
Un(re)solved: The Installation
Un(re)solved’s touring, augmented-reality installation not only memorializes cold-case victims’ stories and lives but also transmits a deeper understanding of a chapter of American history — and the cycle of racially motivated crimes. Over the past year, the installation has toured sites across the country, supported by community-based audio events, convenings, panels and discussion forums. The tour has been rooted in public history, placing what happened more than 50 years ago in the context of today’s inflection point around race relations.
Exhibition stops for the Un(re)solved installation have included the Rosa Parks Museum, the Two Mississippi Museums, DuSable Museum of African American History and the Boston Museum of African American History. At each location, the installation educates, raises awareness and creates public forums for meaningful civic dialogue on important topics such as social equity and racial justice.
Un(re)solved: The Podcast
In the five-part Un(re)solved podcast series, award-winning reporter and host James Edwards probes what prompted the FBI to investigate decades-old unsolved civil-rights-era murders — and why the Department of Justice has made no arrests and brought no new federal prosecutions in the more than 10 years since the act was passed.
Throughout the series, Edwards connects these civil-rights-era cases to the present day, discovering similarities with recent police shootings and instances of racist violence. Since the podcast series premiered at the Tribeca Festival in June 2021, listeners have praised Edwards’ voice and writing, calling the series a “strong mix of investigative reporting, mystery, history, and so timely.” Reviewers have said the series “makes a story from history that seems so far in our past feel incredibly close.” In February 2022, the series was nominated for an Ambies Award for Best Reporting.
Un(re)solved, The Documentary: American Reckoning
During Black History Month 2022, FRONTLINE debuted American Reckoning, the documentary-film component of Un(re)solved. From acclaimed directors, producers and journalists Brad Lichtenstein (When Claude Got Shot) and Yoruba Richen (The Killing of Breonna Taylor, The Sit In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show), the feature-length film reveals an untold story of the civil rights movement and Black resistance.
In partnership with Retro Report and supported by WNET’s Chasing the Dream, American Reckoning draws on rarely seen footage filmed by Ed Pincus and David Neuman more than 50 years ago in Natchez, Mississippi, and made available through the Amistad Research Center. In following one family’s search for answers, American Reckoning also taps into the groundbreaking reporting of journalist Stanley Nelson, who investigated a Ku Klux Klan offshoot, the Silver Dollar Group.
The Boston Globe called American Reckoning a “powerful profil[e] of Black resistance,” and The Guardian wrote that the documentary offered “an unusually intimate glimpse of the civil rights era in the Deep South.”
Un(re)solved: The Curriculum, and More
In collaboration with the award-winning educator Alysha Butler and PBS LearningMedia — a trusted resource of high-quality learning content with nearly 2 million registered users — FRONTLINE created an Un(re)solved companion curriculum, intended to help educate students about this chapter of American history and to preserve its lessons on race and race relations.
Audiences can also explore Un(re)solved on Instagram, in an experience that documents the stories of all 151 victims currently on the Till Act list. There, audiences can learn about familiar civil rights figures, such as Emmett Till, as well as lesser-known stories of Americans whose lives were cut short — but whose impact and legacy span beyond their civil-rights-era killings, as next of kin featured in the posts share their loved ones’ stories.
Want to learn more about Un(re)solved? Subscribe to FRONTLINE’s Un(re)solved newsletter for updates on our investigation of civil-rights-era cold-case killings.
Anne Husted, FRONTLINE Public Relations & Communications Manager
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