In August of 1955, Carolyn Bryant, age 21, accused Emmett Till, visiting from Chicago, of making sexual advances toward her in her husband’s store in Money, Mississippi.
From the New York Times:
With Bryant’s death, the truth of what happened that August day may now never be clear. At the time, she said she did not know she would be putting Till in danger, a statement doubted at the time as she lived in the Jim Crow South. More than half a century after the murder, she admitted that she had perjured herself on the witness stand to make Till’s conduct sound more threatening than it actually was — serving, in the words of the historian to whom she made the admission, as “the mouthpiece of a monstrous lie.” But in an unpublished memoir that surfaced last year, Mrs. Bryant stood by her earlier description of events, though she said she had tried to discourage her husband from harming Till.
Carolyn Bryant Donham, age 88, died today in Westlake, Louisiana with no arrest or indictment for her role in the murder of 14 year old Emmett Till in 1955. Till was visiting family in Mississippi in the Summer of 1955. Outside of a store, Donham alleged that Till whistled at her, grabbed her hand and touched her waist.
The Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr. Till’s cousin, then 16, is the last living witness of the kidnapping of Emmet Till. He remembers the incident at the store. Nearly 70 years later, he will still break down in tears when he describes what happened.
Till was not familiar with the strict racist dynamics that governed every interaction between Black people and white people in the south. The slightest infraction of the mores of the Jim Crow south could lead to violence and death. During the trip, Parker and Till and other relatives went to a store. On the way out, Till whistled at a white woman.
“He loved to have pranks, so he whistled. He gave her the wolf whistle,” Parker said. “When he did that, we could have died. Nobody said, ‘Let’s go.’ We just made a beeline for the car.”
Mrs. Bryant, more recently known as Carolyn Bryant Donham, died in Hospice Care. On Thursday, Megan LeBoeuf, the chief investigator for the Calcasieu Parish coroner’s office in Louisiana, sent a statement confirming the death in Westlake, a small city in southern Louisiana. Ms. LeBoeuf did not provide further information.