With her passing at age 88, Carolyn Bryant Donham put an end to the story of one of the most notorious lynchings in American history. Up until the year she passed away, prosecutors were looking to charge her with the 2014 murder of Till, who was 14.
They were unable to persuade a grand jury to indict her for kidnapping and manslaughter last year. The Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute issued a statement saying that they “wish mercy on her soul, even as we regret that she never took responsibility for her role” in Till’s murder.
“While the world saw the horrors of racism in Emmett’s murder, the real consequences of hatred, what the world will never now see is remorse or responsibility for his death.” The Chicago native was in Money, Mississippi, to see relatives when he walked into Donham’s store.
Donham said he harassed her and made unwanted sexual advances when she was working alone in the store. The boy was abducted by her husband and brother-in-law at gunpoint, abused, and then dumped in a river. Mamie Till Mobley, Till’s mother, wanted an open casket at his funeral so that everyone might see the damage that had been done to her son.
Images of his mutilated body being published stunned the country. Roy Bryant and JW Milam, the two suspects arrested in connection with the murder, were found not guilty of the crime by an all-white jury. They confessed to the murder in a magazine interview, but American law prevented a new trial. Both have passed away unfortunately.
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A coroner confirmed Donham’s death on Thursday, and it took place in Westlake, Louisiana. For the Till family’s loss, Rev. Wheeler Park Jr., the only surviving eyewitness, said, “I recognize that any loss of life is tragic and don’t have any ill will or animosity toward her.”
“Even though no one now will be held to account for the death of my cousin and best friend, it is up to all of us to be accountable to the challenges we still face in overcoming racial injustice,” Donham said that Till grabbed her hand and made sexual advances at her during the trial of her husband and his half-brother.
A Yale historian interviewed her in 2008 and stated that she recanted the assertion, saying, “That part’s not true.” The statement prompted a fresh look at her case by the Department of Justice, but when investigators approached her directly, she denied lying under oath.
Emmett Till accuser Carolyn Brant dies at 88 https://t.co/cEEiF4eJuM
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) April 27, 2023
The events leading up to the lynching never resulted in Donham being arrested. A crew scouring the bowels of the county courthouse in June 2022, however, came across an outstanding arrest warrant for Bryant, Milam, and Donham in connection with Till’s kidnapping.
Despite the public nature of the warrant, the then-sheriff told reporters that he had no intention of serving it because he did not want to “bother” a mother who had two young children at home. Donham said she was afraid for Till’s safety when she made the complaint, according to an unpublished memoir obtained by the Associated Press.
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