The white woman at center of Emmett Till’s kidnapping and killing, dies at 88.
Carolyn who accused Black teenager Emmett Till of making improper advances before he was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 has died in hospice care in Louisiana.
Till’s kidnapping and killing became a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement when his mother bravely insisted on an open-casket funeral in their hometown of Chicago after his brutalized body was pulled from a river in Mississippi. Jet magazine published photos.
Till had traveled from Chicago to visit family in Mississippi in August 1955
Donham (then named Carolyn Bryant) accused him of making improper advances on her at a grocery store. The Rev. Wheeler Parker, a cousin of Till who was there, has said 14-year-old Till whistled at the woman, an act that flew in the face of Mississippi’s racist social codes of the era.
Emmett Till tortured and brutally killed for a wolf whistle
Prosecutors sought charges against her for the killing of Till, 14, up until the year before her death.
Last year they failed to convince a grand jury that she should be put on trial for kidnapping and manslaughter.
A statement from the Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute said that they “wish mercy on her soul, even as we regret that she never took responsibility for her role” in Till’s murder.
“While the world saw the horrors of racism in Emmett’s murder, the real consequences of hatred, what the world will never now see is remorse or responsibility for his death.”
The Chicago boy was visiting family when he entered a store in Money, Mississippi, where Donham, then 21, worked.
Donham accused him of making improper advances and harassing her while she was alone in the shop.
Her husband and brother-in-law kidnapped the boy at gunpoint, tortured him and tossed his battered body into a river.
At Till’s funeral, his mother Mamie Till Mobley insisted on an open coffin so everyone could see what had been done to him. Published photos of his brutalised remains shocked the nation.
The two kidnappers – Roy Bryant and JW Milam – were arrested over the murder, but were quickly acquitted by an all-white jury.
They later admitted to the killing in a magazine interview, but could not be re-tried under US law. Both are now dead.
Donham died in the small town of Westlake, Louisiana, a coroner confirmed on Thursday.
Rev Wheeler Park Jr, a cousin of Till who is the last living witness to his abduction, said “our hearts go out” to her family, adding: “I recognise that any loss of life is tragic and don’t have any ill will or animosity toward her.”
“Even though no one now will be held to account for the death of my cousin and best friend, it is up to all of us to be accountable to the challenges we still face in overcoming racial injustice.”
During the trial against her husband and his half-brother, Donham took the stand and testified that Till had grabbed her hand and propositioned her.
In a 2008 interview with a Yale historian, she recanted the claim, reportedly saying: “That part’s not true.”
The admission sparked the Department of Justice to re-examine her case, but when asked directly by investigators, she denied that she had lied during the trial.
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