The Black 14-year-old boy was beaten and lynched in 1955 after accusations by a White woman of whistling at her.
Trigger Warning: This article contains details of racism and graphic description of violence that may be distressing to readers.
Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old boy from Chicago, was visiting his relatives in Mississippi in the summer of 1955 when he entered the store where a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, then 21, was working. She accused the young teen of whistling at her and attempting to grab her hand and waist. According to PEOPLE, Till was later brutally killed by her husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam. The young teen was kidnapped before being beaten, mutilated, and lynched by the two White men and a large metal fan was tied to his neck with barbed wire as his body was tossed in the Tallahatchie River. Donham testified in court that Till grabbed her and made a lewd comment.
Till's two killers were acquitted by an all-White jury.
Emmett Till: family seeks arrest after discovery of unserved 1955 warrant https://t.co/LtVBuHTiCV— The Guardian (@guardian) June 29, 2022
Now, nearly 70 years later a 1955 warrant for the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham has been found. According to AP, a team discovered the warrant after searching the basement of a Mississippi courthouse for evidence about the case. The woman, identified on the unserved warrant as “Mrs. Roy Bryant”, was charged in his 1955 kidnapping.The warrant was found inside a file folder that had been placed in a box according to Leflore County Circuit Clerk Elmus Stockstill. Donham, now in her 80s, is currently living in North Carolina.
The search was initiated by the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and included two members of Till's family: Cousin Deborah Watts, head of the Foundation; and her daughter, Teri Watts. "Serve it and charge her," Teri Watts told the AP in an interview of the newly found arrest warrant.
The search was started by the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and included two members of Till's family. https://t.co/Fg4DCVRXmi— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 30, 2022
After the two men were acquitted, Donham divorced Roy and took their children with her, according to Distractify. She remarried twice but never spoke about the Emmett Till case publicly until 2007.
In the book, The Blood of Emmett Till (2017), written by Duke University senior research scholar, Timothy Tyson, Dobham confessed to lying about what had happened that day at the store in 1955. She confessed that Till never said anything to her nor did he touch her in any way. She said she felt "tender sorrow" towards Emmett's mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, but did not expressly ask for forgiveness.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reopened the investigation and observed that "Till’s murder is one of the most infamous acts of racial violence in our country’s history." During the re-investigation, the department found that when Donham was asked about the alledged recantation, she "denied to the FBI that she ever recanted her testimony and provided no information beyond what was uncovered during the previous federal investigation. Although lying to the FBI is a federal offense, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI when she denied having recanted to the professor." Given the fact that it couldn't be proved that her 1955 testimony was untrue, the re-investigation was closed.
How Emmett Till's Mother Turned Her Personal Tragedy into a National Movement: 'She Had a Job to Do' https://t.co/TUDWhnG1bw— People (@people) January 6, 2022
After the teen's brutal murder, Till's mother fought to have her only child's body brought home to Chicago. At his funeral, she made sure that her child's casket remain open so all could see what happened to her son. Her cousin, Ollie Gordon, who was only 7-year-old when Emmett died, said, "I still get emotional and I still cry when I think about it or I see pictures and I see her and I see her pain and I feel her grief," she says. She acknowledges that Emmett's mother's mission was to fight bigotry and racism and stand up for justice. Gordon hopes people will understand "how deep hatred and racism penetrates and how hurtful it is."
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Scott Olson