On Aug. 28, 1955, two white men lynched 14-year-old Emmett Till. This was in response to him allegedly whistling at a white woman by the name of Carolyn Bryant Donham. Donham was the wife of one of the murderers.
The two white men, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, were acquitted of Till’s kidnapping and murder, by an all-white, all-male jury. This moment in history is credited for starting the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.
After the trial, Donham went into a very private life and never gave an interview, or so was thought.
A crime so upsetting and horrifying, has been brought back into light for a more disturbing reason: Till was murdered because of a lie. A lie told by Carolyn Bryant Donham.
From the book, “The Blood of Emmett Till” by Timothy B. Tyson, a 2007 interview was conducted where Donham would admit that her claims were not true.
A quote from the New York Times of Till’s cousin, Wheeler Parker, says, “I was hoping that one day she would admit it…. It’s important to people understanding how the word of a white person against a black person was law, and a lot of black people lost their lives because of it. It really speaks to history; it shows what black people went through in those days.”
Till was lynched in the town of Money, Miss. while he was visiting from his native Chicago. Till encountered Donham, who was 21 at the time while in a drug store that Donham worked at on Aug. 24, 1955. He would be found dead four days later.
Tyson said of Donham, “She was trying to say nothing that went on between them constituted any excuse for anyone harming him, let alone what happened to him.”
Till’s mother, Mamie Carthan Till-Mobley, insisted on having an open casket for his son’s funeral. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby,” she spoke. His death and mishandled trial sparked outrage from all over the country, especially from the African American community. Till-Mobley dedicated the rest of her life to being an activist until her death in 2003.
Carolyn Bryant Donham is now 82 years old. It has been recently reported that she may be living in North Carolina.