Posted March 27, 2008 – More than a half-century after it was twice censored by TV networks, Rod Serling's story on the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till and his message about prejudice will finally be told the way Serling wanted.
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The original stage script of Serling's "Noon on Doomsday" will be read Saturday at Ithaca College during a conference on Serling's life and legacy, reports The Associated Press. The award-winning writer-creator of "The Twilight Zone" taught at Ithaca from 1967 until he died in 1975.
"Serling seemed to struggle with network and sponsor censorship all his career, but I believe his trying to tell the story of the Emmett Till case was the pinnacle of this battle," said Andrew Polak, the board president of the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation, a Binghamton-based nonprofit group that works to further Serling's legacy. "This will be the first time the story will be told as Rod intended."
Till's case is one of the catalysts of the Civil Rights Movement. The Black 14-year-old from Chicago was lynched for whistling at a White woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi. The two men accused of kidnapping and brutally murdering Till were acquitted, although they later admitted the crime.
Serling tried twice to dramatize Till's murder and the acquittal of his killers. In both cases, the writer met with sponsor censorship and network interference that diluted his final work, said researchers Tony Albarella and Amy E. Boyle Johnston.
"Serling was one of the first people to write about current events. He was taking a major front-page issue and showing the universal appeal of it and showing our own implications. Today that's a dime a dozen. But when Serling was doing it, that was shocking," said Johnston, who's working on a biography of Serling to be published in 2009.
By the time Till was lynched, Serling was one of the most celebrated writers of TV's Golden Age and already had written several socially conscious scripts, including "Patterns" (about corporate corruption) and "Requiem for a Heavyweight." Serling's Till story was initially accepted and approved by the producers of ABC's "The United States Steel Hour," for which he'd already written several well-received scripts.
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