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True Crime Book on Early 20th Century White Sheriff in Gullah Community is Being Adapted By Will Smith’s Production Company

True Crime Book on Early 20th Century White Sheriff in Gullah Community is Being Adapted By Will Smith's Production Company

Stranger than fiction, this could be quite a read; I’ve added it to my shopping list to pick up later.

Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment has partnered up with Alpine Labs production studios to develop a new one-hour TV series based on the true crime book “Coffin Point: The Strange Cases Of Ed McTeer, Witch Doctor Sheriff,” by Baynard Woods.

The story: Ed McTeer was the sheriff of Beaufort County, South Carolina, for 36 years – also home to a Gullah community. The “Boy Sheriff” as he was known, was only 22 when he was appointed to finish his dead father’s term in 1926; he held the office until being voted out in 1962. During that time, McTeer dealt with syndicate rum-runners, voodoo-inspired murderers, mannered Southern politicians, civil rights pioneers, and local root doctors–and in doing so became more than an ordinary lawman. After an epic battle with the locally infamous Dr. Buzzard, McTeer, a white man, claimed he was the “last remaining tie to the true African Witchcraft.” Using his own brand of voodoo to help govern the largely African American county, McTeer never had to carry a gun during his long tenure. After losing office, he became a full-time practitioner, revered by the community at large, a collector of curios, historian, poet, raconteur, and voodoo doctor.

Baynard Woods’ book mixes first-hand accounts from McTeer’s friends, enemies, and family, with archival research and critical readings of McTeer’s own books, in order to paint a complete portrait of the sheriff and the bygone world he inhabited.

Per Deadline, the series will explore how McTeer found himself committed to both sides of the heavily segregated southern region he oversaw, as well as unpack the racial tensions of the era, particularly in dealing with the Gullah community. As you will know, Julie Dash’s film, “Daughters of the Dust,” portrays a Gullah family at the turn of the 20th century, as the younger generation moves off island.

Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and James Lassiter will executive produce with Alpine Labs’ Kevin Abrams and Jamie Denenberg.

“There have been very few films or TV shows that have dealt with the Gullah and what they’ve given to the United States culturally,”Alpine’s Abrams told Deadline. “Gospel music came out of their musical history, Blues came out of their musical history, a lot of incredible cuisine came out of their cultural history. For us, it’s going to be a really great honor to explore this culture and showing it as being a real thing.”

Abrams is writing the pilot script. The series is being shopped around to networks and online platforms.

If you’ve read the book, please share your reactions to it. If you’d like to purchase a copy, click here.

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