Woman Who Caused Emmett Till’s Death Admits to Lying
We all (should) know the story of Emmett Till, the black 14-year-old Chicago boy who was murdered in August 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 Bryant’s 21-year-old wife, Carolyn.
In the Deep South, where racism was still violent as well as pervasive, Bryant and Milam took it upon themselves to abduct the young teen. They later admitted to killing Emmett, beating and mutilating him, shooting him to death and then sinking him in a local river. 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.
His murder was a catalyst for the American civil rights movement.
Milam and Bryant were arrested for Emmett’s death, but the Deep South is as the Deep South does, and an all-white, all-male jury found them not guilty in a little over an hour. As the men stood trial, according to Vanity Fair, 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 did not hear Carolyn Bryant’s testimony because the judge ruled that it was not relevant to Emmett’s murder, but 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.
However, now, Vanity Fair reports, Carolyn Bryant Donham (who has since been divorced and remarried twice more) has broken her decadeslong silence.