Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” Created After Emmett Till-Based Project Was Censored

Serling originally set out to create a socially conscious series that reflected on American racism.

Rod Serling Twilight Zone
Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone" was inspired by the murder of Emmett Till. (Nick De Morgoli/ Condé Nast via Getty Images)
Nick De Morgoli

After the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy, ended in an acquittal, Rod Serling wanted to create a social conscious TV show about race in America.

He was denied. The television industry wasn’t ready.

The censorship that Serling was met with from advertisers and networks fearful of blowback from white, Southern audiences forced him to rethink his approach, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

His ultimate response in the face of this pushback was The Twilight Zone, “the iconic anthology series that spoke truth to the era’s social ills and tackled themes of prejudice, bigotry, nuclear fears, war, among so many others,” in the words of Smithsonian.

“The writer’s role is to be a menacer of the public’s conscience,” Serling said after the Till murder trial. “He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus the issues of his time.”

Twilight Zone has been remade three times since Serling’s last episode aired in 1964, with the latest adaptation by Jordan Peele available now on the CBS All Access streaming service. While Peele has emerged as one of the horror genre’s biggest stars, the series has received several harsh reviews from critics. But what Peele, like Serling, brings to the table with his version of the classic is an honest and accurate portrayal of real-life issues on the small screen.

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