Emmett Till's Accuser Wrote A Secret Memoir!

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Carolyn Bryant and Juanita Milam (1927-2014), the wives of Roy Bryant and John William Milam, who stand accused of the kidnap and murder of Emmett Till, sitting in their husbands’ lawyer’s office across the street from the courthouse, reading newspaper accounts of the trial at Sumner courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi, September 1955. Black teenager Emmett Till was alleged to have whistled at Carolyn Bryant. (Photo by Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)
Carolyn Bryant and Juanita Milam (1927-2014), the wives of Roy Bryant and John William Milam, who stand accused of the kidnap and murder of Emmett Till, sitting in their husbands’ lawyer’s office across the street from the courthouse, reading newspaper accounts of the trial at Sumner courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi, September 1955. Black teenager Emmett Till was alleged to have whistled at Carolyn Bryant. (Photo by Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)

The woman whose accusations of harassment led to one of the country’s most notorious lynchings wrote a memoir about the incident that was never published.

In 1955, then 23-year-old Carolyn Bryant Donham accused 14-year-old Emmett Till of accosting her inside her family’s store in Money, Mississippi. The accusation that a Black teenage boy would make advances at a white woman in the Deep south at the height of the Jim Crow era was a death sentence for Till, who within a day was dragged from a relative’s house at gunpoint, tortured, mutilated and dumped in a lake.

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Donham is now 87 and every other suspect in Till’s murder, including her husband and brother, are deceased. But there’s renewed interest in the case because of the recent discovery of a warrant for Donham’s arrest dating back to 1955, a document not subject to a statute of limitations and which has never been served. Now comes another bombshell: Donham had actually written a 99-page draft that might be the most detailed, if not only, document created by someone directly involved in Till’s demise.

From the Associated Press

In the memoir, Donham says she attempted to help Till once he’d been located by her husband and brother-in-law and brought to her in the middle of the night for identification.

“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.’” She claims in the manuscript that Till, who had been dragged from a family home at gunpoint in the middle of the night, spoke up and identified himself.

Donham adds that she “always felt like a victim as well as Emmett” and “paid dearly with an altered life” for what happened to him.

The manuscript was first obtained from Donham by author Timothy Tyson during a 2008 interview. Tyson had promised not to release the draft “for decades”, although he did give a copy to the FBI last year. But he says the discovery of the warrant pushed him to go public about its existence.