Civil RightsHistory

Roy Bryant

Roy Bryant was a white man from Mississippi who, along with his half-brother J.W. Milam, was accused of the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Emmett Till in 1955. Bryant was born on January 24, 1931, in Mississippi. He worked as a truck driver and was also a former military police officer. Bryant owned a store in Money, Mississippi, along with his wife Carolyn Bryant Donham, where Emmett Till was accused of whistling at Carolyn.

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

Four days after the alleged incident, Bryant and Milam abducted Till from his uncle’s home, and then brutally beat and tortured him before shooting him in the head and throwing his body into the Tallahatchie River. Despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, Bryant and Milam were acquitted of Till’s murder in a trial that lasted less than an hour. After the trial, Bryant and Milam confessed to the murder of Till in an interview with Look magazine. They claimed that they had acted out of a sense of racial duty and that they had no regrets about what they had done.

Taking Acquittal in Stride. Sumner, Mississippi: Co-defendant J.W. Milam calmly smokes a cigar as his wife mugs for the camera, after he and his half-brother, Roy Bryant, were acquitted of having murdered Emmet Louis Till, 14-year-old Chicago Negro boy. An all-white male jury brought in a verdict of “not guilty” after being out one hour and 7 minutes.

Bryant continued to live in Mississippi and remained largely out of the public eye following the trial. He died on September 1, 1994, at the age of 63. Bryant’s role in the murder of Emmett Till continues to be a source of controversy and debate. The case is often cited as an example of the deep-seated racism and injustice that plagued the American South in the mid-twentieth century, and the legacy of Till’s murder continues to inspire the fight for racial justice in America.

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