Emmett Louis Till was a Black teenager who was lynched in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman. The white woman, Carolyn Bryant, claimed that Emmett whistled at her. This enraged some whites in the area and led to Emmett being murdered in August of 1955 by two white men, J.W. Milam and his half-brother Roy Bryant.
As the story goes, Emmett, who was visiting family in Mississippi, had gone into a store to buy some bubble gum. As he was leaving, he is said to have whistled at the the 21-year-old Carolyn.
Carolyn’s husband and his half-brother Milam, took it upon themselves to abduct the young boy. They later admitted to beating, mutilating, and shooting the 14-year-old to death. Emmett’s mother insisted on having an open-casket funeral for her disfigured son so that the world could witness the brutality of white supremacy.
Milam and Bryant were arrested for Emmett’s death but an all-white, all-male jury found them not guilty in a little over an hour. As the men stood trial, Carolyn Bryant testified that Emmett “had grabbed her and verbally threatened her. She said that while she was unable to utter the ‘unprintable’ word he had used … ‘he said [he had]’—done something – ‘with white women before.’”
The jury didn’t hear Carolyn Bryant’s testimony because the judge ruled that it was not relevant to Emmett’s murder. The result was the same and her testimony was still heard by court spectators and put on the record because the defense wanted to use it as evidence in case of an appeal if the defendants happened to be convicted.
Recently, Vanity Fair reported that Carolyn Bryant-Donham has broken her long lasting silence about the evens that transpired that day.
In a new book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” author Timothy Tyson reveals that in 2007 Donham, at the age of 72, admitted that she had made up the most damning part of her testimony.
“That part’s not true,” Donham reportedly told Tyson about her claim that Emmett made verbal and physical advances toward her.
Conveniently, according to Vanity Fair, she said that she couldn’t remember the rest of what happened that August evening in the store. The news site noted that the now-82-year-old’s whereabouts have been kept a secret by her family.
Tyson’s book is due to be published next week by Simon & Schuster. And according to Vanity Fair, although several other authors have written about Emmett’s story, no one, with the exception of Tyson, has ever had the opportunity to interview Donham. Both her ex-husband and brother-in-law are now dead.