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Emmett Till accuser Carolyn Bryant Donham dies at 88, Internet says 'Death is not Justice'

Donham accused Till of whistling at her in a grocery store in 1955 which resulted in her husband and her brother-in-law kidnapping and murdering him
Emmett Till accuser Carolyn Bryant Donham dies at 88 (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images and 60 Minutes/CBS News)
Emmett Till accuser Carolyn Bryant Donham dies at 88 (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images and 60 Minutes/CBS News)

WESTLAKE, LOUISIANA: Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman whose accusation against Emmett Till resulted in his lynching, died at age 88, without ever being charged. Donham accused Till of whistling at her in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi in 1955 when he was 14 and she was 21. Her husband and her brother-in-law kidnapped Till, brutally beat him, and then executed him as a result of the accusation, which has never been verified or disproven.

The brutality of Till's death and his mother's request that his damaged remains be displayed in an open casket continue to serve as a potent symbol of the pervasive prejudice that existed in the Southern United States in the 1950s. The death of the White woman whose accusations resulted in the lynching of Till has sparked an outburst of rage on social media. Keith Boykin, a film director, political analyst, and former Bill Clinton White House aide, said Donham's death is "not justice."


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How did Carolyn Bryant Donham die?

Carolyn Bryant Donham's death was confirmed by the Calcasieu Parish Coroner's Office in Louisiana on Thursday, April 27 according to Mississippi Today. She was 88 years old, had cancer, and was under hospice care. Donham was living quietly in Louisiana in recent years.

She was never arrested

Donham's death came after years of futile efforts by Till's family to bring her to justice. Her husband was accused and acquitted in connection with Till's killing, but she was never arrested. Last year, a grand jury was convened to consider allegations against her, but the jury declined to indict her. Professor Timothy Tyson's book, "The Blood of Emmett Till," contains a comment from Donham confessing she lied to the FBI and the court.

It says that in her memoir, she recounts the story she told at the trial using imagery from classic Southern racist horror movies portraying the 'black beast rapist' trope. It continues, "But about her testimony that Till had grabbed her around the waist and uttered obscenities, she now told me, 'That part’s not true'." Donham was cited as saying, "Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him." "It has comforted America to see this as merely a story of monsters, her among them," Professor Tyson stated in a statement.

'Death is not Justice'

There was an outburst of rage online as according to many commenters, Donham died without getting justice. Keith Boykin took to Twitter and outpoured his anger, saying, "Death is not justice. An arrest warrant was issued for Carolyn Bryant Donham in August 1955 related to the murder of Emmett Till. But it was never served. Instead, she was able to live a full life to 88 years old." "Emmett Till only lived to 14 years old. This is not justice."


'Rest In Power, Emmett'

"Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman whose accusation set off the lynching of Emmett Till nearly 70 years ago, has died at 88," said Former Ohio State Senator and activist Nina Turner. "She got to grow old. Emmett Till did not get that opportunity. Rest In Power, Emmett."


'Now it’s over'

The death of Donham, according to Devery Anderson, author of "Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement," signifies the end of a chapter. The author stated that some people "have been clinging to hope that she could be prosecuted. She was the last remaining person who had any involvement. Now that can’t happen." For many, "it’s going to be a wound, because justice was never done," he noted. "Some others were clinging to hope she might still talk or tell the truth. … Now it’s over," as per Mississippi Today. Wheeler Parker, Till's cousin, expressed sympathy to the Donham family on behalf of himself and his family. “We don’t have any ill will or animosity toward her," he declared.