Civil RightsHistory

Carolyn Bryant Donham

Carolyn Bryant Donham is a woman from Mississippi who was at the center of a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. In 1955, Donham accused Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy, of making sexual advances towards her while he was visiting Mississippi from Chicago. Donham’s accusations led to Till being brutally beaten, shot, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. Till’s murder and the subsequent trial of his killers became a turning point in the fight for civil rights in America.

Emmett Till Murder Case – Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Milan (left) and Mr. and Mrs. Roy Bryant during trial

In 2008, Donham broke her silence about the incident in an interview with historian Timothy Tyson. In the interview, she admitted that she had fabricated her story about Till and that he had not made any sexual advances toward her. She also claimed that other aspects of the case, including the account of Till’s murder and the subsequent trial, were inaccurate.

Emmett Louis Till, 14, at home in Chicago.

Donham’s confession has raised questions about the justice system in America and the treatment of African Americans in the mid-twentieth century. It has also sparked a debate about the nature of forgiveness and whether or not Donham should be held accountable for her role in the murder of Emmett Till. Some argue that her confession is a step towards reconciliation, while others believe that she should be held accountable for her actions.

Carolyn Bryant Donham, 84, seen in this image from a video taken in August 2004

Since the release of the interview, Donham has largely remained out of the public eye. Her confession has been met with mixed reactions, and her role in the murder of Emmett Till continues to be a source of controversy and debate.

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