*The white woman whose accusations against 14-year-old African American Emmett Till in 1955 led to his lynching, has admitted to lying in court about his alleged flirtation, according to a new book.
“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” Carolyn Bryant Donham is quoted as saying in “The Blood of Emmett Till” by author Timothy Tyson, a Duke University senior research scholar.
Till, from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi when he was kidnapped, beaten and shot in August 1955, four days after he allegedly whistled at Bryant, the then-wife of a white shopkeeper.
The woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Miliam, were charged with murdering Till, whose mutilated body was found in the muddy Tallahatchie River.
Till’s mother famously insisted on holding an open-casket funeral, leading images of her son’s disfigured face to spread across the country, galvanizing the Civil Rights movement.
At trial, Carolyn Bryant testified that Till had grabbed and threatened her inside her husband’s store.
Bryant said that Till used an “unprintable” word as he told her he had been intimate “with white women before.” The jury did not hear Carolyn Bryant’s testimony because the judge ruled it wasn’t relevant to Till’s murder, but her testimony was still heard by court spectators and put on the record, because the defense wanted it as evidence in case of an appeal.
Despite mountains of evidence, Roy Bryant and Miliam were acquitted by an all-white jury. Carolyn Bryant went into hiding following the trial. She divorced, and twice remarried, all the while never giving an interview.
However, she agreed in 2007 to speak with Tyson. In the interview, the then-72-year-old who went by Carolyn Bryant Donham admitted to fabricating her trial testimony.
“That part’s not true,” she says in Tyson’s book, about her claim that Till made verbal and physical advances toward her, according to Vanity Fair.
Donham added that she couldn’t remember the rest of what happened that night in the country store. But she did say she “felt tender sorrow” for Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley who died in 2003.
According to Vanity Fair, the now-82-year-old’s whereabouts have been kept a secret by her family. Both her ex-husband and brother-in-law are deceased.
Several other authors have written about Emmett Till, but Tyson is the only one to have ever interviewed Donham.
“The Blood of Emmett Till” is due to be published next week by Simon & Schuster.