Emmitt Till’s accuser dies

Emmitt Till’s accuser dies

When Carolyn Bryant Donham accused 14-year Emmett Till of making eye contact with her in segregated Money, Mississippi, she called her husband. Bryant called Roy Bryant, her husband, and J.W. Milam with his half-brother, to beat the young boy to death.

Years later, Donham later said it was an overaction, which she sparked and remained silent since 1955. He was beaten bloody and died. Carolyn Bryant Donham set this terrible event in motion and died Tuesday in Westlake, Louisiana. 

In 2017, Tim Tyson, author of the book The Blood of Emmett Till, revealed that Carolyn Bryant (later known as Carolyn Bryant Donham after several divorces) recanted her testimony, admitting that Till had never touched, threatened, or harassed her. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” she just had to power to kill a young boy.

Bryant and Milam, the killers made Emmett carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. 

The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire, into the river. 

An all-white male jury said they would have acquitted Bryant and Milam quicker, but had to finish drinking  Coca-Cola. Bryant and Milam sold their stories to Look Magazine.

Three days later, his corpse was recovered but was so disfigured that Moses Wright, a cousin, could only identify it by an initialed ring. Authorities wanted to bury the body quickly, but Till’s mother, Mamie Bradley, had his body back in Chicago. 

Till’s mother had her son’s body shipped back to Illinois where Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender photographed Till’s grotesque body. More than 50,000 people viewed Till’s body at Roberts Temple in Chicago.

Till’s murder even sparked resistance in Money, Mississippi, and elsewhere.

On December 5, 100 days after Till was murdered, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As Parks later said of her actions that day, “I thought of Emmett Till, and when the bus driver ordered me to move to the back, I just couldn’t move.†

Her arrest, of course, sparked the now-famous Montgomery bus boycott that turned the struggle for civil rights into a mass movement led by a then-26-year-old minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Sparked by the arrest of Parks on December 1, 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott was a 13-month mass protest that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional.

After the acquittal, the black sharecroppers that once kept Bryant’s Grocery in business refused their patronage, and the store was put up for sale less than a month after the trial. For the next three decades, different owners maintained the building as a country grocery—first as Wolfe’s and then as Young’s Grocery and Market.

In March of 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law, making lynching a federal hate crime.