Emmett Till‘s brutal 1955 lynching at the hands of white men angered by his alleged flirting with a married white woman Mississippi has remained one of the most chilling instances of racism in modern times. However, the woman at the center of the controversy, Carolyn Bryant Donham, shared in 2007 that her claims and testimony in court against Till was all an elaborate lie.
The admission was given to author Timothy Tyson, whose new book The Blood of Emmett Till examines the inner workings of the moments that led to the death of the 14-year-old Chicago boy. Donham, who was then 21 and married to then-husband Roy Bryant, spun the tale that Till whistled at her and made improper advances, especially egregious at the time given the prevalence of Jim Crow laws.
Vanity Fair took a deeper look into Tyson’s book and zeroed in on how the author found Donham in 2007, then at the time 72. Donham’s shocking admission had been expected by some who have followed the case over the years, but this was the clearest confirmation of the lies told that helped end Till’s life.
From Vanity Fair:
Down through the decades, Carolyn Bryant Donham (she would divorce, then marry twice more) was a mystery woman. An attractive mother of two young boys, she had spent approximately one minute alone with Till before, in view of others, the alleged whistling had occurred. (He may not have whistled; he was said to have a lisp.) Carolyn then dropped out of sight, never speaking to the media about the incident. But she is hidden no more. In a new book, The Blood of Emmett Till (Simon & Schuster), Timothy Tyson, a Duke University senior research scholar, reveals that Carolyn—in 2007, at age 72—confessed that she had fabricated the most sensational part of her testimony. “That part’s not true,” she told Tyson, about her claim that Till had made verbal and physical advances on her. As for the rest of what happened that evening in the country store, she said she couldn’t remember. (Carolyn is now 82, and her current whereabouts have been kept secret by her family.)
Read the rest of the profile by following this link.
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