The woman whose accusations led to Emmett Till's lynching admits she lied.
In 1955, the Civil Rights Movement was sparked by the lynching of a 14-year-old boy in a small town in Mississippi. A white woman accused the boy, Emmett Till, of leering and whistling at her. Carolyn Bryant Donham, now 82, admits she lied about Till and claimed she feels "tender sorrow" for Till's mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, after she herself went through the loss of a child.
Donham, who lives in hiding for fear of retribution, spoke with The Blood of Emmett Till author Timothy Tyson about the Mississippi killing of Emmett Till. "That part's not true," she told Tyson during a discussion in 2007, Vanity Fair reported Thursday. Tyson's book will be available next week. It was the first time the accuser had ever spoken about the event to a writer.
On August 28, 1955, two white men, Donham's husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam abducted Till at gunpoint from a relative's home in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. The Chicago boy was on a summer vacation. His swollen and disfigured body was found in the Tallahatchie River three days later. The murderers were acquitted by an all-white jury before issuing a public confession a few months later in Look magazine.
Till's mother's brave decision to have an open casket funeral despite the boy's decomposed condition stoked the fires of civil disobedience. A manuscript of Donham's memoirs will be made available to the public in 2036. It is currently held at the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill archives.