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NEW YORK (AP) — The woman at the center of the trial of Emmett Till’s alleged killers has acknowledged that she falsely testified he made physical and verbal threats, according to a new book.

Historian Timothy B. Tyson told The Associated Press on Saturday that Carolyn Donham broke her long public silence in an interview with him in 2008. His book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” comes out next week.

“She told me that ‘Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,'” said Tyson, a Duke University research scholar whose previous books include “Blood Done Sign My Name” and “Radio Free Dixie.”

Emmett Till was a 14-year-old black tortured and killed in 1955 in Mississippi after allegedly whistling at a white woman, then known as Carolyn Bryant.

His murder became national news, was a galvanizing event in the civil rights movement and has been the subject of numerous books and movies. During the trial, Bryant said that he had grabbed her, and, in profane terms, bragged about his history with white woman. The jury was not present when she testified.

Donham’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were acquitted by the all-white jury. Both men, who later told Look magazine they did murder Till, have since died. Milam’s widow, Juanita Milam, would later tell the FBI she believed that Carolyn Bryant had fabricated her story. Juanita Milam died in 2014. The Justice Department re-examined the case a decade ago, but no one was indicted as a murderer or an accomplice.

On Saturday, the maker of a documentary on Till said he had long been sure that Bryant’s story was false.

“His mother had mentioned that Emmett had a speech impediment and that the things Bryant claimed he was saying he could not have said easily,” said Keith Beauchamp, whose “The Untold Story of Emmett Till” came out in 2005.


Tyson said that he spoke with Donham after her daughter-in-law, Marsha Bryant, contacted him. Bryant had read “Blood Done Sign My Name,” about a racist murder during his childhood in Oxford, North Carolina, and invited Tyson to meet with her and Donham.

Tyson said he and Donham had two conversations, both lasting 2-3 hours, and that he planned at the time to place the material in the archives at the University of North Carolina. Asked why he waited so long to publicize his findings, he responded that historians think in different terms than do journalists.

“I’m more interested in what speaks to the ages than in what is the latest media thing,” he said.

He added that he wasn’t sure whether Donham knew about the book. He said he had fallen out of touch with the family and that when he last spoke with Bryant, a few years ago, she said Donham was in poor health.

Till was a fun-loving teenager from Chicago visiting the Mississippi Delta and helping out on his great-uncle Mose Wright’s farm. On Aug. 24, 1955, Till and some other kids drove to a local store, Bryant’s, for refreshments. At Bryant’s, some of the kids stayed on the porch, watching a game of checkers, while the others filed inside to buy bubble gum and sodas. Carolyn Bryant, the 21-year-old wife of proprietor Roy Bryant, was behind the counter.

Accounts of what happened next differ.

Mrs. Bryant claimed Emmett bragged about dating white women up north. She said he grabbed her and asked her, “How about a date, baby?” Simeon Wright, his cousin, heard none of this. But there is no doubt about what he heard when they left the store, he told the AP in 2005.

Standing on the front porch, Emmett let out a wolf whistle.

Carolyn Donham’s whereabouts have long been a mystery, but North Carolina voter rolls list a Carolyn Holloway Donham. Holloway is her maiden name.

The address is for a green, split-level home in Raleigh at the mouth of a neat cul-de-sac just two turns off a busy four-lane thoroughfare. The well-tended house has burnt-orange shutters and a front-facing brick chimney decorated with a large metal sunburst. Orange flags emblazed with the word “Google” dot the lawn.

A woman, who appeared to be of late middle age, and a small barking dog appeared at the front door. When a reporter asked if this was the Bryant family home, the woman replied, “Yes.”

When asked if Carolyn Donham was at home, the woman replied, “She’s not available.”

At first, she refused to accept a business card, but relented after hearing about the upcoming book.

The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation has shared news reports about the book on Instagram and asked if Donham would have the “decency and courage” to speak with Till’s relatives.

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(Photo Source: AP)


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20 thoughts on “Key Till Witness Gave False Testimony, Historian Says

  1. Evil wretched soul.. she lies and steals his life.. then she wants the truth to pay her for the life she stole.. may she and her entire family rot in hell.. may pain be inflicted upon her and her offfsprong to no end and may her pain be 10 times as deep as the mother of Emmitt Till..

  2. why cant we go thru every state… and sue for false lynchings of AA’s past and present… theres enough pictures of their celebrating … observers and juries ….judges, sheriffs… should be some way to compensate…

  3. Ms. Pettigrew on said:

    I worked with Emmett’s mother @ Scanlan Elementary School in Chicago. Mrs. Dunham told Emmett’s mom, Mamie Till Mobley, before she died that her husband made her lie & that’s why she left him. His mom & Christopher Benson jointly wrote the book, “Death of Innocence-the Hate Crime Heard Around the World”. The state of Mississippi should be held accountable for their lack of proper investigation & violation of due process & Civil Rights. In 1968 after Dr. King’s death Mrs. Dunham admitted the truth and again in the 90’s. Mrs. Dunham’s family must be scrapped for money & are trying to get some now.

  4. Annette Johnson on said:

    She was wrong…she cut his life short. He may have been President or beyter yet a senator..she snatched his moms life of him be able to care for her better yet see her grow in her elder yrs.
    Also believe she coming out now to get loy of publicity. She should serve time for all the yrs she keep this to herself..imagine if the tables were turned????

  5. specialt757 on said:

    For the first time for as long as I can remember we are all on the same page about any article, even chris troll’s (not chris mason) balls must be hurting from straddling that fence LOL. Come on over to the right side chris, before we trade your ass in for Tommy from Power and it still wouldn’t be an even trade.

  6. Keshia on said:

    That lying filthy piece of trash should not receive one damn penny from this book. I wouldn’t purchase if it were the only damn book on the shelf. God help you you lowlife child murdering lying scumbag

  7. Honestly on said:

    Cave n!@@ers have a depraved indifference to lives of Nubian People. This child, Emmett Till, and many other have been slaughtered by these neanderthal apes and gone unpunished. Retribution will be had win these mayonnaise monkeys are crushed to p!ss, sh!t and blood. They should have never been let out of the caves of Europe.



  9. Wow. The truth always comes out. We still have this issue of “rushing to judgement” when people make claims about being rape, child molestation, assault, etc without waiting for all the facts to come out. In this case, it was race the motive and the mistreatment of blacks when people could accused blacks of everything was ok to do; and they wont be put in jail even if it is lies about blacks.

    • specialt757 on said:

      Olivia, the very thought of the pain this boy suffered at the hands of those white racists devils sickens me and makes me want to throw up. I hope they suffered all kinds of ills before they died and their lives were miserable and their off-springs as well.

  10. Since this POS has wriiten a book-the proceeds ($$$$) should be donated to the remaining relatives of Emmett Till.

    She should not be ALLOWED TO KEEP ONE RED CENT!!!!!!!!!!

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