The white lady who accused Emmett Till of flirting with her, leading to his lynching in 1955, stated that she did not want him to be killed and attempted to save him.
Carolyn Bryant Donham made the announcement in a manuscript obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday. The contents have been made public as part of an effort by Emmett’s family and friends to get Donham arrested on a kidnapping warrant discovered in the basement of a Mississippi courthouse last month.
Donham, according to Emmett’s family, should be held accountable for her role in his kidnapping and murder.
Donham’s accusation about the 14-year-old child making a pass at her enraged her then-husband.
According to reports, Roy Bryant, his half-brother J.W. Milam, and others took Emmett at gunpoint. He was tortured, beaten, barbed wired to a cotton gin fan, and dumped into Mississippi’s Tallahatchie River.
According to accounts, sheriffs did not execute the arrest order for the mother of two since she had small children at the time. When they raided Emmett’s home to capture the boy who was visiting from Chicago, he swore he heard a voice softer than a man identify him.
However, Donham alleges in the manuscript that she assured the guys that Emmett was not the perpetrator and attempted to protect him. She claimed that the teen was the one who identified himself.
“I did not wish Emmett any harm and could not stop harm from coming to him, since I didn’t know what was planned for him,” Donham says in the manuscript compiled by her daughter-in-law. “I tried to protect him by telling Roy that ‘He’s not the one. That’s not him. Please take him home.”
Donham stated that she “always felt like a victim as much as Emmett” and that he “paid dearly with an altered life.” Emmett Till’s lynching has become a symbol of racial brutality and injustice in America. Donham is the only survivor of the incident. She is thought to be in her late 80s and was last seen in North Carolina.
Two investigations into the homicide have been started and dismissed by the Justice Department. The most recent was concluded in December, with no misconduct on Donham’s behalf. In 2007, a Mississippi grand jury also declined to indict Donham on manslaughter charges.
However, Emmett’s family and allies are hopeful that the warrant and manuscript will lead to her arrest.
Keith Beauchamp, a filmmaker whose documentary sparked a Justice Department investigation that resulted in no charges being filed in 2007, said the memoir shows that Donham “is culpable in the kidnapping and murder of Emmett” and that “not holding her accountable for her actions is an injustice to us all.”
“Our fight will continue until justice is ultimately served,” Beauchamp, a member of the search team that discovered the warrant in late June, said.
It is uncertain whether the new findings will result in Donham’s arrest. Mississippi prosecutors having jurisdiction over the case, on the other hand, have pointed to the ineffective DOJ probes.
According to Jaribu Hill, an attorney representing Emmett’s family, Donham was free on an outstanding warrant for more than six decades because she was white and the victim was Black.
“There was, and still is, the white pedestal theory, which holds that white women are above reproach,” Hill explained.
Following their acquittal in the Emmett Till trial, defendant Roy Bryant (right) smokes a cigar while his wife happily hugs him and his half brother, J.W. Milam, and his wife express joy. In an interview with a reporter not long after the trial, the couple admitted to murdering Till with little remorse. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images) )
“We know that many of those lynchings occurred because of an alleged meeting between a Black man and a white lady back when lynchings were raging and Mississippi had the highest number of lynchings.”
Hill hopes that the theory based on white women’s perceived fragility and Black men’s brutality is disproven and Donham is held accountable.
“We’re urging law enforcement and elected officials in particular to do their jobs, to ensure justice is served, and to remove the last vestiges of the double standard that still exists today,” she said.
Timothy Tyson, a historian and novelist who said he acquired the text from Donham following a 2008 conversation, said he gave it to the Associated Press because of the revelation of the warrant. He initially kept the 99-page memoir, “I am More Than A Wolf Whistle,” locked up in an archive at the University of North Carolina and submitted a copy to the FBI for the federal investigation.
“The possibility of an investigation was more essential than the archival agreements, which are also vital,” Tyson added. “However, this is likely the last opportunity for an indictment in this case.”
Donham’s words absolving herself of wrongdoing, according to Tyson, should be taken with “a good-sized shovel full of salt.”
Tyson notified the FBI following his conversation with Donham because she acknowledged to lying about Emmett’s approaches during the trial of her husband and his half-brother for his murder. The men were eventually acquitted, but in a magazine interview, they confessed to killing the youngster.
Tyson believes Emmett would not have identified himself to the men.
“At 2 a.m. in the Mississippi Delta in 1955, two enormous white guys with rifles came and pulled him out of his aunt and great-uncle’s house.” “I don’t believe he identified himself for a second,” he stated.
According to Dale Killinger, a retired FBI agent who investigated the case over 15 years ago, the memoir offers inconsistent material.
Donham claimed she yelled for help during her meeting with Till inside Money’s little business, but Killinger claimed no one heard her. She also never discussed speaking with her ex-husband about the incident.
Donham did apologize in her memoirs, adding, “I have always prayed that God would bless Emmett’s family.” I deeply regret causing his family such anguish.”