Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman whose accusation led to the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy, has died at the age of 88 in Louisiana.
Her death has brought a conclusion to a painful chapter for the Emmett Till family and the Black community in America.
Malik Shabazz, with Black Lawyers for Justice, has released a statement mourning her death, but also calling out her dishonesty and injustice.
He stated, “Carolyn Bryant’s death brings a conclusion to a painful chapter for the Emmett Till family and for Black peoples in America. The tragic part about Bryant’s death was that she was never held accountable for her role in the death of young Emmett Till, who is the martyr for the Civil Rights Movement.”
Emmett Till was brutally murdered in August 1955 in Money, Mississippi, after allegedly whistling at Carolyn Bryant, who was known as Carolyn Bryant Donham at the time.
Her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were accused of kidnapping, beating, and shooting the young boy before dumping his body into the Tallahatchie River.
Although they later admitted to killing Emmett Till in a 1956 interview with Look magazine, they were acquitted of murder by an all-White jury.
During the trial, Carolyn Bryant testified that Emmett Till grabbed and verbally threatened her, which contributed to the jury’s decision to acquit the accused.
However, years later, she reportedly admitted that this part of her testimony was not true. In 2007, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict Donham on any charges.
Carolyn Bryant Donham Cause of Death
Donham’s death has brought mixed reactions from different parties. While some, such as Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., Emmett’s cousin, have expressed their condolences to her family, others have criticized her for never being held accountable for her role in Emmett Till’s death.
There have been calls to reopen the investigation into Till’s murder, particularly following reports that Donham had recanted her testimony.
However, in December 2021, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division concluded that they could not prove Donham had lied.
In August 2022, a grand jury in Leflore County, Mississippi, declined to indict Donham on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter due to insufficient evidence.
District Attorney Dewayne Richardson released a statement saying, “After hearing every aspect of the investigation and evidence collected regarding Donham’s involvement, the Grand Jury returned a ‘No Bill’ to the charges of both Kidnapping and Manslaughter.”
The murder of Emmett Till remains a tragic reminder of the injustices faced by African Americans in America.
It has been more than 68 years since Emmett Till’s death, but his memory still lives on as a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.