The Atlanta Child murders don’t exactly fall into the “seems like it needs to become a TV series!” category. But true crime series have been rebranded as Thoughtful Television, and they often truly earn the classification. Adapted by Ryan Murphy and co. as part of the American Crime Story, the O.J. Simpson trial at first seemed like a potentially exploitative, disastrous fictionalization, and yet it was handled with surprising sensitivity and social astuteness while without being dull. That horrific murder was a huge media story, but it was also the murder of two adults; the Atlanta Child murders — which Variety reports will be the subject of a new TV series on FX — refer to the killings of 29 people, mostly black children and teens, between 1979 and 1981.
The series, titled No Safe Place, appears to be in very good hands, and to have a smart, unsensational, and socially and conceptually intriguing point of approach to the climate in Atlanta at the time. Regina King and 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley are developing it — the star and creator, respectively, of American Crime. King, who’ll also soon be seen in the final season of The Leftovers, is set to star.
The show is an adaption of Kim Reid’s book, No Safe Place, A Memoir; Empire‘s Wendy Calhoun (who’s also executive producing with Ridley, Regina King, and King’s sister, Reina) will be adapting it. Reid’s mother was the detective investigating the murders, when Reid was 13. The book recounts the climate in the black community in Atlanta from the perspective of a 13-year-old, who balances a growing awareness of the dangers and vulnerabilities of being young and black in the South, in a city where black children and teens were disappearing by the dozens, alongside the fact that she attended a predominantly white private school — not to mention the everyday concerns and dramas of adolescence. From Booklist’s description of the book (h/t Indiewire):
Just after the first two bodies are found in 1979, Kim, 13, enters a white private school in the suburbs, far from her inner-city neighborhood. Over the next two years, a total of 29 black boys are found dead. Is the killer a Klansman type? Could he be a black man? The racism at school is ugly. No one there cares about the murdered inner-city kids…As the climax builds, and her mom brings home more and more details of the murder investigation, Kim’s personal conflicts are as intense for her as the terror outside.
Wayne Williams, the man who was ultimately arrested and convicted with two of the 29 murders, was black, and maintains his innocence; the murders were reinvestigated in the 2000s, with a member of the KKK under scrutiny, but the probe into the group’s potential involvement was ultimately dropped. No one has been convicted of most of the murders, though police attributed a more of them to Williams, and closed the cases without officially trying or convicting him.