Emmett Till’s family says an unpublished memoir detailing the events that lead to his gruesome death in 1955 is rooted in lies.
The memoir was penned by Carolyn Bryant Donham. She is the white woman who accused Till of making lewd comments, touching and whistling at her while at a convenience store in Money, Mississippi. The book was recently discovered, but it is believed to have been written over a decade ago. In its 99 pages, Donham reiterates her account of the interaction shared between she and Till.
Donham also alleges she attempted to stop her husband at the time, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam from harming Till. Her efforts were unsuccessful as the 14-year-old was pulled from his family’s home, beaten and lynched.
“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,” claimed Donham in the memoir 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 goes on to allege Till sealed his fate when he identified himself to Bryant and Milam.
Till’s family rebutted Donham’s recollection of interacting with the teen. They lament Till never touched her at the convenience store. They also claim Till would not have identified himself to two armed white men pulling him from bed at 2 a.m.
“Two big white men with guns came and dragged him out of his aunt and great-uncle’s house at 2 o’clock in the morning in the Mississippi Delta in 1955. I do not believe for one minute that he identified himself,” said historian Timothy Tyson. Tyson interviewed Donham in 2008. At that time, he said she provided him a copy of the memoir. Tyson archived the book at the University of North Carolina. He intended for it to be publicized decades later, but he instead turned it over to the FBI last year.
“The potential for an investigation was more important than the archival agreements, though those are important things. But this is probably the last chance for an indictment in this case,” said Tyson. Both Bryant and Milam were acquitted in 1955 of murder charges for their roles in Till’s death.
As previously reported by REVOLT, an unserved arrest warrant for Donham dating back to Aug. 29, 1955 was uncovered last month (June 29).