“That part’s not true,” said Carolyn Bryant Donham in a 2007 interview with Timothy Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till. In their interview, which is the subject of Tyson's book, Donham confessed that she fabricated that a 14-year-old Emmett Till actually whistled at her on that dark day in Aug. 1955. It was the whistle that angered her former husband J.W. Milam, and his half-brother Roy Bryant, that they would kidnap Till and brutally murder him. The harrowing news and the not guilty verdict in an all-white, all-male courtroom kicked started the Civil Rights Movement.
Discussing their encounters with Vanity Fair, Tyson recalls that Donham appears, "glad [that] things had changed [and she] thought the old system of white supremacy was wrong, though she had more or less taken it as normal at the time." He says she would also admit, "Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him."
Donham's confessions are all too late, but a look back at this injustice is just another reminder of why we fight for justice and must continue to confront and resist racism.The Blood of Emmett Till is available on Tues. January 31.
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