Woman Whose Cat-Calling Accusations Led to Emmett Till’s Lynching: ‘I Lied’

The lynching death of black teen Emmett Till in 1955, outside of being one of the most controversial criminal cases in American history, doubled as an igniter of the Civil Rights Movement. After being accused of cat-calling a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, Till was kidnapped and brutally murdered by two men. One of them was Donham’s husband at the time, Roy Bryant. At the subsequent criminal trial for Bryant and his cohort, his half-brother J.W. Milam, Donham’s chilling testimony illustrated in the mind of an all-white, male jury that Till made physical and verbal sexual advances toward her. She used the term “unprintable” to describe something she claimed Till uttered to her. And so both Bryant and Milam would be acquitted of all charges.

In a new book, The Blood of Emmett Till, authored by Duke University senior research scholar Timothy B. Tyson, it’s revealed that Donham’s landmark testimony was, to a significant degree, a farce. Per this analysis of the contents of the book by Variety, Tyson reveals that in a 2007 conversation with Donham, she stated, “That part’s not true,” in regards to the story she told the court over 60 years ago. As for what really happened? Donham says she doesn’t remember.

Per Variety:

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.)

You can pre-order The Blood of Emmett Till, to be released next week, here.


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