What prompted the FBI to reinvestigate over one hundred unsolved civil rights era murders? And what does justice look like for families whose loved ones were killed? Reporter James Edwards seeks answers to these questions, reflecting on his own family’s experiences along the way. Hear episode 1 on June 11.
Episode 5: The Future
What does the FBI have to say about the outcomes of the Till Act so far — and what does the future of work under the Cold Case Initiative look like? James talks with the FBI’s Civil Rights unit chief. Then he digs deeper into what U.S. Representative John Lewis, who championed the Till Act, really wanted — and weighs what moving forward looks like for the families with loved ones on the list.
Episode 4: The Hope
Fifty-five years before the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, the killing of another Black woman, Alberta O. Jones, sent shock and grief through that city’s Black community.
In 1965, Jones, a trailblazing attorney in Louisville, was found dead, floating in the Ohio River — the victim of a murder that’s still unsolved today. Thirty-four-year-old Jones was the city’s first female prosecutor, and a charismatic fixture in the Black community, helping educate and register people to vote.
Despite multiple investigations over nearly 60 years, there are no official motives or suspects in her killing. In 2018, her case was added to the federal government’s cold case list and is one of the few that remains open.
In episode 4, James explores what an open case on the list looks like through the life and death of Alberta Jones — and talks to the person who never gave up fighting for answers.
Episode 3: The Success
There has been just one successful prosecution since the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act was signed into law in 2008. In Alabama, a district attorney investigated and charged a state trooper in the 1965 killing of a man during a civil rights march. But whether this case was a success is complicated. James digs into that case, and follows the money to try to understand whether funds the Till Act was supposed to provide were ever granted. And would an attempt to extend the Till Act beyond its 2017 sunset date offer a chance for lawmakers and the DOJ to address criticisms?
Episode 2: The Letters
As part of its Cold Case Initiative, the DOJ compiled a list of cases to look into. As of 2008, Mississippi — where Emmett Till was murdered — had the largest number of cases. James meets Walter Henry, a Black FBI agent who worked in a field office there and was tasked with investigating many of these crimes. One name from the list, a Black serviceman who was killed by a white police officer in 1962 following an altercation at a bus station, offers some insight into how civil rights era killings were handled. The man’s son recollects how his family carried with them the trauma of his father’s death and how the FBI’s re-examination of the case still impacts them today.
Episode 1: The List
In 1955, a boy from Chicago was murdered in rural Mississippi. Who his killers were was an open secret — but none were found guilty of the crime. More than 50 years later, spurred by the work of activists and reporters, a bill named for the boy would wind up in the halls of Congress. It was aimed at bringing justice to unsolved killings from the civil rights era. Around the same time, the Department of Justice and the FBI launched an initiative tasked with investigating these types of crimes. The beginning of this effort to right wrongs in the country’s past was a moment of hope for many families. But what does justice look like in these cases, decades after the crimes?
What prompted the Justice Department to investigate over one hundred unsolved civil rights era murders? And what does justice look like for families whose loved ones were killed? Reporter James Edwards seeks answers to these questions, reflecting on his own family’s experiences along the way. Un(re)solved is an investigative series from FRONTLINE. Hear the first episode on June 11.
Best Podcast in a long time
I listen to a lot of investigative podcasts, as well as legal podcasts and those about wrongful convictions. This podcast is so well done on so many levels. It’s amazingly well produced, perfectly paced, beautifully scored, and very thoughtfully narrated. While the content is both devastating and (sadly) unsurprising, it grips the listener and compels them to follow along. It seems odd to say that I can’t wait for more episodes (I wish there weren’t any in so many regards). Thanks for the excellent work.
should be required listening for everyone!
well-researched & so incredibly important — everyone should listen to this podcast!
Really well done
Each case and perspective is presented so carefully and respectfully. It is truly sobering to realize how brazen many of these crimes were, and just how *often* they happened. May the families feel some ounce of peace that their stories are being told and brought to light.