OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 1:33 PM – Thursday, April 27, 2023
According to a coroner’s report, Carolyn Bryant Donham, the White woman who had claimed that Emmett Till had made inappropriate approaches before he was abducted, tortured, and lynched in Mississippi in 1955, has passed away while receiving hospice care in Louisiana.
According to a death record submitted on Thursday to the Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office in Louisiana, Donham passed away on Tuesday evening in Westlake, Louisiana after battling with cancer.
Till’s cousin, Wheeler Parker, had said that he and his family have sent their sympathies to the Donham family.
“We don’t have any ill will or animosity toward her,” he said.
Parker had also said that Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, forgave her son’s killers. In a speech she made shortly before her 2003 death that God told her not to hate her son’s killers.
“I am glad He took hatred out of my heart,” she said.
In August 1955, Till had made a trip from Chicago to see family in Mississippi. Donham, who was 21 at the time and went by the name Carolyn Bryant, accused the 14-year-old of flirting, touching, or whistling at her when she was working at a grocery shop in the little town of Money.
According to Till’s cousin The Reverend Wheeler Parker, who was present at the time of the incident, the 14-year-old had whistled at the woman. This action had violated the unwritten code of behavior for a Black male interacting with a White female in the Jim Crow-era South.
Evidence linked the killing of Till to Roy Bryant, Donham’s then-husband, and J.W. Milam, who was Milam’s half-brother.
The two had taken the boy from his bed and ordered him into the back of a pickup truck and beat him before shooting him in the head and tossing his body into the Tallahatchie River.
An all-White jury found them both not guilty of murder when Carolyn Bryant testified that Emmett grabbed her and threatened her verbally throughout the trial. Bryant and Milam subsequently confessed in a Look magazine interview.
After Till’s mangled body was discovered the Mississippi river, his kidnapping and murder catalyzed the Civil Rights Movement when his mother insisted on an open-casket funeral in their hometown of Chicago. The magazine Jet published images of the 14-year-old.
“Let the world see what they did to my boy,” Mobley had said.
In her unpublished book, “I Am More Than a Wolf Whistle,” Donham reiterated her long-standing claim that she was innocent of killing Till, despite calls for her prosecution from Civil Rights leaders and others. Donham had written that she did not wish Till any harm, pointing out that someone else, not her, told Bryant what had happened at the store.
After an intensive FBI investigation, a majority-Black Mississippi grand jury declined to indict her in 2007. Last year, another grand jury also voted against indicting her.
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