Emmett Till’s Accuser Carolyn Bryant Donham Dies, Along With Any Last Chance of Justice

Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman accused Emmett until—a 14-year-old Black boy — who was “whisped” by her in 1955, which ended in his kidnapping, torture, and fatal shooting, died without facing punishment for his role her in the execution.

Donham died Tuesday at the age of 88, CNN report, citing a coroner. She is said to have battled cancer and died in hospice care in Louisiana.

Her death closed one of the darkest chapters in American history. Donham is the last survivor to participate in the Till massacre, and the last chance for Till’s extended family to finally get justice for his murder.

Instead, Donham’s death ensured that no punishment was reduced for Till’s death, which sparked worldwide outrage and proved to be an integral part of the culture. civil rights movement — with Rosa Parks saying she thought of Till when she famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Devery Anderson, author of Emmett Till: Murder that shocked the world and fueled the civil rights movementspeak Mississippi today that Donham’s death had killed any hope that someone would eventually be prosecuted for the murder of Till.

“Now that can’t happen,” he said, adding: “It would be a wound because justice was never done.”

Till’s family did not immediately comment on Donham’s death. However, after the news broke on Thursday morning, thousands more expressed their feelings—with “Rest in Hell.” trending on Twitter.

A protester holds up a photo of Emmett Till during a vigil for George Floyd in 2021.

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Until he was killed in August 1955, when he was just 14 years old, he left Chicago to visit family in Mississippi. It’s there, in the small town of Money, where Donham – a 21-year-old mother of two – alleges he whistled at her as he left a store.

Donham, who has lived all his life in the secluded Deep South, is said to have told her husband, Roy Bryant, about the whistle and he became enraged. Days later, along with his half-brother, JW Milam, two men kidnapped Till and threw him in the back of their pickup truck. They were accused of torturing him and eventually shooting him dead, dumping his body in the Tallahatchie River.

Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted that her son’s casket be left open at his funeral—which was attended by 50,000 people—to “let the world see what they did to their son.” I.”

Despite photographs of Till’s naked body appearing in publications across the country, an all-white jury acquitted Bryant and Milam of all charges in less than an hour. deliberation—a verdict that one juror said would have been made faster if jurors “didn’t stop for pop.” After the trial, they proudly confessed to killing Till, but both never been in jail.

Mamie Till outside court during the trial of those accused of killing her son.

Bettmann Archives / Getty Images

Donham tipped over and over about what happened in the summer of 1955. She wrote in her memoirs that she was terrified of Till and that he showed no fear at the store and after the kidnapping. – a big change from her initial memory of what happened, in which she said Till was “scared” of being brought to her by her husband.

These conflicting statements — and a thirst for justice for decades afterward — put pressure on Mississippi prosecutors to charge Donham with Till’s murder in 2007, but the grand jury refused to prosecute. Donham for any crime. The same thing happened last summer, when the discovery of an unsigned old arrest warrant for Donham opened up the possibility that she would be charged with manslaughter and kidnapping. However, after seven hours of deliberation, a Mississippi grand jury determined in August that not enough evidence to accuse Donham.

Donham is said to have apologized for what happened to Till, but not for her specific role in his death. Her memoir, which has been sealed in the Southern History Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, won’t be released to the public until 2036, but part of it has since been leaked to the public. the media.

Bryant wrote in his memoir: “I always prayed to God to bless the Emmett family. Washington Post report. “I am truly sorry for the pain his family has caused.”

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