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Emmett Till Murder Trial

Source: Bettmann / Getty

A memoir written by the woman who was at the center of the murder of Emmett Till has surfaced. The discovery, coupled with news of an unserved warrant from that time has raised calls to reopen the case.

According to NewsOne, an unnamed source provided a copy of a 100-page memoir from Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who made the false accusation against 14-year-old Emmett Louis Till in Mississippi in 1955. Her claim led to the boy’s abduction, savage beating, and lynching. Till’s grotesquely disfigured face was published in JET Magazine, spurring many to mobilize within the Black community and serving as a flashpoint for the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The document, entitled “I Am More Than A Wolf Whistle”, was apparently composed in 2008 and 2009. The source states that it was dictated by Bryant Donham to her daughter-in-law. Bryant Donham is now 88, and her whereabouts are currently unknown.

The recollections in the memoir depict Black people as demeaning tropes as pets and mascots. But her depiction of the encounter with the 14-year-old Till in the last third of the memoir, is shocking, claiming that he “appeared to me to be in his late teens or early twenties”, and that he grabbed her hand instead of paying for candy and made overtly led remarks to her. She concludes by claiming, “I always felt like a victim as well as Emmett. He came in our store and put his hands on me with no provocation. Do I think he should have been killed for doing that? Absolutely, unequivocally, no! Did we both pay a price for it, yes, we did. He paid dearly with the loss [of] his life. I paid dearly with an altered life.”

The memoir’s surfacing coincides with the discovery of an unserved warrant from 1955 charging her and her late husband, Roy Bryant, and John W. Milan her half-brother with kidnapping. It was found in the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse in Greenwood, Mississippi. Bryant and Milan were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury for Till’s murder, then confessed in a paid interview with Look Magazine. Double-jeopardy laws prevented them from being prosecuted again.

The relatives of Emmett Till have publicly called for the arrest and prosecution of Bryant Donham given that the original warrant has not expired and that there is no statute of limitations on the crime of kidnapping. 

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