Renowned American author and senior research scholar Timothy Tyson spoke with Carolyn Bryant Donham, the White woman at the center of the racist murder of Emmett Till in 1955.
In his new book “The Blood of Emmett Till,” Tyson, a senior research scholar at Duke University, claims that 82-year-old Bryant confessed to him that her sensational testimony in Till’s murder case 62 years ago was fabricated.
In September 1955, Bryant told a court in Mississippi that Till, a 14-year-old Black Chicago boy, had grabbed her and verbally threatened her. She added that although she could not utter the “unprintable” word he had used, he said he had done something “with White women before.”
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“I was scared to death,” she said, according to Vanity Fair.
Bryant was testifying in a case, where her husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam were accused of abducting Till and beating him to death for allegedly whistling at her inside their store where he had gone to buy bubble gum.
The brutal murder sparked nationwide protests and is considered to be one of the major motivations for the Civil Rights Movement in the United States against White supremacy.
But despite the compelling evidence provided by the prosecution, the all-White, all-male jury voted “not guilty” in little over an hour. To many, this was no surprise since the state of Mississippi was known to support White-on-Black killings.
To add insult to injury, four months after their irreversible acquittal, the two men admitted their guilt to a local magazine, receiving an incentive of $3,000 for their story.
Overcome By Guilt
More than six decades after making the damning testimony, Bryant had continued to avoid the media, with her family keeping her whereabouts a secret.
However in his new book, which will be published this week, Tyson contends that the murder case had a lasting impact on Bryant’s life, explaining that she could never escape its infamy.
In his conversation with Bryant in 2007 over coffee and pound cake, Tyson says a “confessional” spirit took over.
“She was glad things had changed, [and she] thought the old system of White supremacy was wrong, though she had more or less taken it as normal at the time,” Tyson says.
Carolyn confessed to Tyson that she felt tender sorrow when Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who spent her life campaigning against White supremacy, died in 2003.
Till-Mobley insisted that her son’s casket (pictured below) be kept open at his funeral so that America could see what had been done to him.