Woman admitted she lied about story
His murder invigorated the Civil Rights Movement and exposed the random killings of African-Americans in the south. On April 25, Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman whose accusations spurred the 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till, died of cancer at a Westlake, La. hospice. She was 88.
Carolyn Bryant was a White store clerk in a Money, Miss. grocery store when Till, a Black teenager from Chicago, visiting family came in to purchase two cents worth of chewing gum. She later told her husband that the youth “wolf-whistled,” physically accosted, and made sexual overtures to her.
Days later on the night of Aug. 28, her husband, Roy Bryant (whom she later divorced), and several cohorts abducted Till from his great-uncle's home, beat and tortured him before shooting him in the head, weighted him down and threw him to the bottom of the Tallahatchie River.
His corpse, bloated and mutilated, was recovered three days later.
Carolyn Bryant was never held responsible for her role in the tragedy, but her husband and accomplice J. W. Milam were tried and acquitted in September of that year. The following year, they were interviewed by Look Magazine for $4,000, and admitted in graphic detail to the crime, their candor prompted by the legal concept of double jeopardy, which states that an individual cannot be tried twice for the same crime.
In a 2007 interview with Duke University professor Timothy B. Tyson, the now remarried Carolyn Bryant Donham stated that she lied about the incident, an admission he documented in the 2017 book “The Blood of Emmett Till.” During the remainder of her life, she avoided all interview requests for her role in this historic episode.