More than 60 years have passed since the brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. Members of his family are requesting the case be reopened due to startling new information revealed to author Timothy Tyson. Tyson wrote the recently released book “The Blood of Emmett Till” in which he spent years reviewing documented evidence and probing further into Till’s murder and trial.
While researching for the book, Tyson conducted an exclusive interview with the woman who gave him the new information, and is widely considered responsible for Till’s death. Carolyn Bryant Donham revealed to Tyson, now decades after the death of the young man Till, that her allegations against him were untrue.
In August 1955, Donham was working at the small grocery store owned by her husband in Money, Miss. Till and his cousins went in to buy bubble gum and other refreshments. On his way out, Till was said to have whistled at Donham and then he and his cousins left the store.
Donham told her husband Roy Bryant and half-brother, J.W. Milam, a different story. She told them Till had grabbed her and tried to sexually assault her, which was all fabricated and outrageously untrue. Till had grown up in Chicago, where blacks lived a modest but somewhat more relaxed life than blacks in the south. Till knew about racism and discrimination, but he was not aware that whistling could get him killed.
In an exclusive interview with Tyson, he questioned her about the sexual advances she claimed Till made at the time. When he specifically mentioned her statements of Till grabbing and threatening her, she said, “that part is not true.” This was a surprising revelation to Tyson and perhaps it startles all who now hear of it. The family of Emmett Till, however, is not surprised.
Donham’s admission and revelation some 50 years after the fact only confirms what Till’s family believed from the beginning. They knew the accusations against him were false and highly fabricated. They knew he did nothing to deserve being kidnapped, brutally beaten beyond recognition, shot, lynched, and thrown into a river.
His killers never spent one day in prison for the crime they initially denied, but later admitted to. It was racial injustice at its best, and it helped catapult the civil rights movement into action. Now, Till’s family is calling for investigators to reopen the case and honor his memory by putting letting the world know these allegations have always been lies.
Let’s be clear. Donham is not the first and, unfortunately, will not be the last white woman to lie on a black man accusing him of sexual assault. Women have done this for ages knowing it could very well cost the man his life. Perhaps they just want to see how far their husbands will go to prove they are wanted and desired. If I could ask Donham one question, it would be this: “Was it worth it?”
Have we come a long way in terms of race relations in the United States, or do we still have so far to go? Let’s discuss here or on Twitter: @lcarterwriter.