Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” Carolyn Bryant Donham admitted in a new book, which is slated to hit shelves next week.
Titled The Blood of Emmett Till, the woman who accused the then-14-year-old boy of physically and verbally threatening her, admits in an explosive testimony that she fabricated the most sensational parts of her testimony that got her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam, acquitted of murder.
This is a story that has played itself out throughout American history. Countless names have been etched on walls in memoriam to those who were “walking while black,” shopping in a store, or even just playing with a toy in the part. Emmett Till‘s murder marked a pivotal moment in the fight for Civil Rights, as his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, shocked the world by showing her son’s disfigured and dismantled body in an open casket funeral. It was so harrowing of an experience that JET magazine made it is cover and ignited the Civil Rights Movement.
On the stand, Carolyn Bryant and her testimony influenced the local white public’s perception of the motive for Emmett Till’s murder, saying that Till had grabbed her and verbally threatened her. “He said [he had] done something with white women before,” she said. “I was just scared to death.” Although a jury did not even hear Carolyn’s words, the court spectators put her words on the record, which led to the jury acquitting the murderers of the 14-year-old boy.
Timothy Tyson‘s The Blood of Emmett Till reveals that Carolyn—in 2007, at age 72—confessed that she lied about the most sensational parts of her testimony. “That part’s not true,” she told Tyson, about her claim that Till had made verbal and physical advances on her. While she would go on to say that she doesn’t remember what happened afterwards, the now 82-year-old woman has lived a full life on an untruth that set the standard with how unarmed confrontations with white authority figures goes on today.
The Vanity Fair article would go on to report that Carolyn Bryant Donham did not “officially repent,” and it is known that she did not attend the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, which “attempts to promote understanding of the past and point a way forward.” As she begins to have her own late-blooming regret, we have to say that our hope is that America reads this full story, plus The Blood of Emmett Till and gain some awareness that the pain caused by ignorance affects us all.