'I tried to protect him': Carolyn Donham DENIED wanting to harm Emmett Till in unpublished memoir

The 87-year-old mentioned in the memoir that she was unaware of what would happen to Till and tried to 'protect him by telling Roy that he’s not the one'


                            'I tried to protect him': Carolyn Donham DENIED wanting to harm Emmett Till in unpublished memoir
Carolyn Donham (R) denies allegations of wanting to harm Emmett (L) who was allegedly lynched by her husband Roy Bryant and JW Milam (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images and 60 Minutes/CBS News)
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Carolyn Bryant Donham, who was in news earlier for an arrest warrant that was discovered after 67 years in the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, said that she neither identified him to the killers nor wanted the boy to be murdered. A draft of the unreleased memoir manuscript titled ‘I Am More Than a Wolf Whistle’, obtained by the Associated Press, indicates that the now 87-year-old woman was unaware of what would happen to Till. The 14-year-old African American boy lived in Chicago and was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was abducted, killed, and tossed in a river.

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The 99-page draft was first reported by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. Historian and author Timothy Tyson of Durham, who said he obtained a copy from Donham while interviewing her in 2008, provided a copy to the AP on July 14. In the draft, Donham said, “I did not wish Emmett any harm and could not stop harm from coming to him, since I didn’t know what was planned for him. I tried to protect him by telling Roy that ‘He’s not the one. That’s not him. Please take him home.’” She further said in the memoir, “I have always prayed that God would bless Emmett’s family. I am truly sorry for the pain his family was caused." She also said she “always felt like a victim as well as Emmett” and “paid dearly with an altered life.”

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'This leaked memoir is a lie'

In the memoir, Donham claims that she screamed when she encountered Till, which is denied by Till's cousin Wheeler Parker. He said it never happened. On the other hand, Chris Benson, who co-wrote a book with Parker titled 'A Few Days Full of Trouble', tagged Donham's version of events in the memoir as "lies". As reported by NBC, Benson said, "We believe she is continuing to tell lies. This is a person who we strongly believe had something to do with the abduction and potentially even the lynching of Emmett Till – but there is no way to establish that as a legal matter at this point."

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As per the reports, Benson claimed that the draft of the memoir has several contradictions. He said, "I think people are going to be outraged. In particular when they realize what she is saying and that she is unrepentant. It really disturbs us that there can be no justice in this case."

Unserved warrant still pending

Donham's husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother JW Milam were tried on murder charges about a month after the teenager was killed, but an all-white Mississippi jury acquitted them. On January 24, 1956, they confessed their crime in a paid interview with Look magazine. Bryant died in 1994, while Milam died in 1981.

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On the other hand, Donham was never arrested. As reported earlier, an arrest warrant charging her was discovered on June 29 this year. The discovery, reported by the historical Black newspaper The New York Amsterdam News and the Associated Press, showed an unserved warrant, dated August 29, 1955, for the arrest of Donham — identified as ‘Mrs Roy Bryant’ on the document.

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The search for the warrant was initiated by the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation which included two of his family members -- his cousin Deborah Watts, who is the head of the Foundation, and her daughter Teri Watts. Till's family wanted authorities to take immediate action. However, no action has been taken so far.

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