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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Emmett Till’s accuser dead at age 88 

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Aug. 29, 1955, a warrant for the arrest of Roy Bryant and J.W Milam was issued for their involvement in the brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. There was one more person on that warrant, but it was never served to them. That person was Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who accused Till of making sexual advances at her. This sparked an uproar of outrage amongst activists and drove Till’s family to seek justice, which now seems out of reach.  

Donham died at age 88 on April 25 in Westlake, Louisiana while in hospice care. For some, this serves as a satisfying end to this narrative while others feel that justice for the Chicago-native Till will forever remain unserved.

“Carolyn Bryant’s death brings a conclusion to a painful chapter for the Emmett Till family and for Black peoples in America,” Malik Zulu Shabazz, the Till family’s attorney, said in a statement. “The tragic part about Bryant’s death was that she was never held accountable for her role in the death of young Emmett Till.” 

In June 2022, a group from the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation worked with filmmaker Keith A. Beauchamp to discover an unserved warrant for Donham from 1955 in the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse.  

Related: ‘Go serve the warrant’: Indy activists seek justice for Emmett Till at accuser’s home in Kentucky  – Indianapolis Recorder 

After the unserved warrant was discovered, Till’s family and activists around the country traveled to Donham’s home, where several protests took place in hopes that the 88-year-old would turn herself in to the police, which never happened. This did not discourage Till’s family from seeking justice, and in December 2022 Priscilla Sterling, Till’s cousin, filed a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi for not serving Donham the warrant

“Carolyn Bryant’s legacy will be one of dishonesty and injustice,” Shabazz said. “A legacy that verifies that Mississippi coddles and protects white supremacy. Our unrelenting pressure against Carolyn Bryant will not be forgotten.”  

Contact staff writer Timoria Cunningham at 317-762-7854 or timoriac@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @_timoriac. 

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