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Emmett Till

Five decades later, Emmett Till accuser recants claims

by Jacquelyn Gray, Contributor

Carolyn Bryant, whose accusations of sexual harassment against Emmett Till led to his murder in 1950’s Mississippi, admitted she lied, according to a new book.

In The Blood of Emmett Till, penned by Duke University senior research scholar Timothy Tyson, revealed that in 2007 Bryant, then 72, told the author that she fabricated crucial parts of her testimony.

Till, 14, was from Chicago and visiting family when the 21-year-old cashier accused him of whistling at her while he bought bubble gum. Roy Bryant, Bryant’s husband, and his half-brother J.W. Milam were accused of tracking down Till before they shot and beat him to death.

“She was trying to say nothing that went on between them constituted any excuse for anyone harming him, let alone what happened to him,” Tyson said, according to CBS News. “In court, she testified to something that was tantamount to attempted rape. What she said was ‘that part’s not true.’”

An all-white, all-male jury acquitted Roy and Milam for the gruesome crime in September 1955 after a mere hour of deliberation. Following their acquittal, the pair admitted to Look magazine — for about $3,000 — to mutilating Till before sinking his body in a local river. Roy and Bryant have since died.

According to Tyson, Carolyn said she felt “tender sorrow” for Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett’s mother. Mamie died in 2003.

“When Carolyn herself [later] lost one of her sons, she thought about the grief that Mamie must have felt and grieved all the more,” Tyson told Vanity Fair.

Mamie insisted on an open-casket funeral and allowed Jet magazine to publish photographs of Emmett’s disfigured and bloated corpse to call attention to what happened to her son. The unsettling photos are widely credited with sparking the American civil rights movement.

Carolyn Bryant, who goes by Carolyn Donham, is now 82. Her family won’t disclose where she resides.

[Feature Photo: Handout]

Jacquelyn Gray is a New Jersey-based writer and journalist. When she's not covering crime, she's probably tweeting or doing yoga.