After Mississippi’s top legal official shared there will be no plans to prosecute Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman who accused Emmett Till of making lewd comments, now an unpublished memoir by her has come under the spotlight.
In a report by The Washington Post, Till’s family says the book, which was recently discovered, is “rooted in lies,” and there are still calls out for her arrest.
Penned by Donham almost a decade ago, the 99-page account relays her interaction between herself and Till. In it, she alleges that she attempted to stop her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam from harming Till. Her efforts were unsuccessful as the 14-year-old was pulled from his family’s home, beaten, and lynched.
“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,” claimed Donham in the memoir compiled by her daughter-in-law. “I tried to protect him by telling Roy that ‘He’s not the one. That’s not him. Please take him home.’”
She goes on to allege Till sealed his fate when he identified himself to Bryant and Milam.
The family of Emmett Till rebuffed Donham’s recollection of interacting with the teen. They also contend that Till never touched her at the convenience store. They also claim that Till would not have identified himself to two armed white men pulling him from bed at 2 a.m.
“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,” said historian Timothy Tyson. Tyson interviewed Donham in 2008. At that time, he said she provided him with a copy of the memoir. Tyson archived the book at the University of North Carolina.
The book was later intended to be published for public consumption, but instead Tyson turned the memoir over to the FBI in 2021.
“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,” said Tyson. Both Bryant and Milam were acquitted in 1955 of murder charges for their roles in Till’s death.