The Justice Department has officially closed its investigation into the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy who was killed by two white men after witnesses said he whistled at a white woman, for a second time.
According to CNN, the Justice Department said it cannot prove whether Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman who accused the young boy of making sexual advances at her, lied to authorities. Back in 2017, Professor Timothy Tyson found key evidence in Till’s case — an alleged retraction from Donham.
Donham previously testified that Till grabbed her hand and solicited her, saying that he had been with “white women before.” When she was later confronted with her testimony in 2008, Tyson claimed she told him, “That part’s not true.” His claim called for the case to be reopened, although the Justice Department had already concluded a year earlier that no one could be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations. Federal investigators spoke to Donham again, but she denied ever recanting her previous testimony.
Till was in Mississippi visiting family back in 1955 when he was kidnapped, beaten, tortured and killed after being accused of whistling and making sexual advances at Donham. His body was found in the Tallahatchie River several days later. Roy Bryant, Donham’s husband, and his half-brother J.W. Milam were charged with murder for Till’s death, but both men were acquitted by an all-white jury. Months later, Bryant and Milam admitted to the killing during a paid interview.
Rev. Wheeler Parker was present in the home when the two men came looking for his younger cousin. “I’m waiting to be shot, and I close my eyes,” Parker said in an interview with ABC News. “I wasn’t shot, I opened my eyes and they’re passing by me. The guy said, ‘We’re looking for fat boy, the fat boy from Chicago.'”
“They left with him, and that’s the last time we saw him alive,” he added.