Emmett Till Accuser Denies Wanting Teen Killed In Unpublished Memoir: ‘I did not wish Emmett any harm and could not stop harm from coming to him’

Emmett Till

Emmett Till Accuser Denies Wanting Teen Killed In Unpublished Memoir: ‘I did not wish Emmett any harm and could not stop harm from coming to him’

The woman who accused Emmett Till of making improper advances before he was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 says she did not identify him to the killers nor wanted him murdered.
In an unpublished memoir obtained by sources, Carolyn Bryant Donham says she was unaware of what would happen to 14-year-old Emmett Till, who lived in Chicago and was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was abducted, killed and tossed in a river. At the time of Till’s murder, Carolyn Donham, 87, was only 21-years-old. Her then-husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam were acquitted of murder charges but later confessed in a magazine interview.
The 99-page manuscript, titled “I am More Than A Wolf Whistle,” was first reported by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. Historian and author Timothy Tyson who said he obtained a copy from Donham while interviewing her back in 2008, provided a copy to sources on Thursday (July 14).

According to reports, Tyson had placed the manuscript in an archive at the University of North Carolina with the agreement that it not be made public for decades, however, he said he gave it to the FBI during an investigation that the agency ended last year. Now, he has chosen to make it public following the recent discovery of an arrest warrant on kidnapping charges that was issued for Carolyn Donham in 1955 but never served. In the wake of the recent developments, Timothy Tyson said,

“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.”

In the manuscript compiled by her daughter-in-law, Carolyn Donham claims she attempted to help Emmett Till once he’d been located by her husband and brother-in-law and brought to her in the middle of the night for identification.

“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. I tried to protect him by telling Roy that ‘He’s not the one. That’s not him. Please take him home.'”

She claims in the manuscript that Till– who had been dragged from a family home at gunpoint in the middle of the night– spoke up and identified himself. Donham says she “always felt like a victim as well as Emmett” and “paid dearly with an altered life” for what happened to him. At the end of her manuscript, she wrote:

“I have always prayed that God would bless Emmett’s family. I am truly sorry for the pain his family was caused.”

Retired FBI agent, Dale Killinger–who investigated the case more than 15 years ago–says Donham’s unpublished memoir contains contradictions that raise questions about her truthfulness through the years. For example, Killinger points out that Carolyn Donham claims in the memoir to have yelled for help after being confronted by Emmett Till inside the family grocery store in Money, Mississippi, yet no one ever reported hearing her screams. Also, Donham reportedly never mentioned that she and Roy Bryant spoke about Till’s abduction, however, in the manuscript, she says they did. Kiliger said,

“That seems ludicrous. How would you have a major event in your life and not talk about it?”

Carolyn Donham

Author/historian Timothy Tyson said Donham’s statements in the memoir need to be taken with “a good-sized shovel full of salt,” particularly her claim that Emmett Till identified himself to the men who took him from the family home and later admitted killing him. Tyson said,

“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.”

The Justice Department closed its most recent investigation into the case in December 2021 and Mississippi authorities haven’t given any indication they plan to pursue the kidnapping warrant or other charges against Carolyn Donham. However, the Till family is pushing authorities to act.

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Authored by: Monique Nicole