The Emmett Till Story


white woman lies and a black teenager dies

two books published about Emmett Till and his father, Louis


By Frederick H. Lowe

Two books about Emmett Till and his father, Louis (Saint) Till have just been published, coincidentally at about the same time a white woman who set in motion Emmett’s brutal murder at the hands of her husband and his half- brother has admitted to lying about the circumstances that led to the Chicago teenager’s death.

Both father and son suffered violent deaths 10 years apart.

Louis Till
Louis Till

Louis Till, who was in the U.S. Army during World War II, was hanged for raping two Italian women and murdering a third woman in Civitavecchia, Italy, in 1945.

His military court martial is chronicled in the recently published book “Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File,” by John Edgar Wideman. The book was released in November.

Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File
Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File

Wideman writes that Louis Till and Fred A. McMurray, another soldier, were found guilty of the rapes and murder on the filmiest evidence.

Till is buried in Grave 73, Row 7 of Plot E in Oise-Aisne American Cemetery near Fere-en-Tardenois, France. Ninety-six soldiers were either hanged or killed by firing squad during World War II.  Eighty-three were black, Wideman said. Plot E is segregated from the main cemetery.

Ten years after his father’s hanging on July 2, 1945, Emmett Till was kidnapped and savagely beaten to death by Roy Bryant and his half-

Carolyn Bryant
Carolyn Bryant at 21.

brother, J.W. Milam, as the result of an accusation made by Carolyn Bryant, the then 21-year-old wife of Roy Bryant. Emmett Till was murdered on August 28, 1955.

Till was visiting relatives in Money, Miss. He was shopping in Bryant’s store when Carolyn claimed he touched her hand and put his arm around her waist.

Touching a white woman or speaking to one in a manner considered inappropriate is a violation of southern tradition and punishable by death if you are a black man or black boy.

Bryant and Milam kidnapped Till and beat him until he was unrecognizable before tying an industrial fan to his neck and throwing his body into the Tallahatchie River.  His body floated to  the surface where it was discovered later by two boys.

An all-white, all-male jury found Bryant and Milam not guilty in 68 minutes in September 1955.  The jurors took as much time as they did to reach their verdict because they had to finish drinking their Coca Colas.

Bryant and Milam were more worried about the industrial fan they stole to weigh down Till’s body than having killed the teenager. The two admitted to murdering Till after Look magazine interviewed them and paid them $3,150. After being acquitted, Bryant and Milam could not be retried for Emmett Till’s murder.

The Blood of Emmett Till
The Blood of Emmett Till

In the book “The Blood of Emmett Till,” by Timothy B. Tyson, Carolyn Bryant Donham, now 82, admits she lied about Emmett Till’s behavior.

Emmett Till
Emmett Till

While she  said he hadn’t done what she had accused him of doing, she also said she doesn’t remember what happened, Donham told Tyson.  Her comments were published in Sunday’s New York Times.

“Nothing that boy did could justify what happened to him,” Donham said in the Times’ article.

Ed Bradley of the television magazine show “60 Minutes” attempted to interview Donham in 2008 but her son blocked Bradley. She lived in Greenville, Miss. She remarried and changed her name.

Mississippi  U.S. Senators James Eastland and John C. Stennis, two segregationists, uncovered details about Louis Till’s crimes and execution and released them to Southern reporters to stop the NAACP from talking about Emmett Till’s innocence and brutal murder.

Emmett Till’s murder gained worldwide attention and sparked the modern civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks said she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus because she was thinking about what happened to Emmett Till.

The Blood of Emmett Till” is scheduled to be released this week.



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