Family members of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black teen whose murder in the Jim Crow South spurred the civil rights movement in America, say they have unearthed an unserved arrest warrant for the White woman who accused him of making advances toward her, sparking the events that led to his death nearly 70 years ago.
The warrant was discovered last week by a five-member search group led by members of Till’s family, including Deborah Watts and her daughter Terri. An image of the warrant, provided to CNN by the foundation, charged J.W. Milam, Roy Bryant and Bryant’s then-wife — identified in the document as Mrs. Roy Bryant — with kidnapping and orders their arrests. The warrant is dated August 29, 1955, and signed by the Leflore County Clerk.
The image of the warrant shows the current Leflore County clerk certified the document as authentic on June 21. Absent action from law enforcement in light of the finding, the family has considered taking initiative to help bring justice in Emmett’s brutal killing.
In 1955 Jim Crow America, 14 year old Emmett Till was visiting his uncle Mose Wright, a sharecropper in Money, Mississippi from Chicago. He was out buying some candy with his friends and playing around like all kids do they dared him to talk to the white woman in the store, Carolyn Bryant DonHam. After buying his candy, it was reported that Till allegedly whistled at her before leaving. A whistle… an honest, harmless, playful whistle of a child resulted in the brutal lynching of Emmett Till.
Carolyn Bryant Donham told her husband Roy Bryant that Till “had made lewd gestures, grabbed her and whistled”. LIES! LIES THAT COST HIM HIS LIFE! Roy Bryant and his friend J.W. Milam drove to Wright’s house, putting him at gunpoint and demanding Emmett to come with them. Despite pleas from his uncle, the men kidnapped 14 year old Emmett and brutally beat and terrorized him. Smashing his head and putting a bullet through him until his body was unrecognizable. They tied a 75lb cotton gin fan around his neck and threw him in the Tallahatchie river.
Days later when his body was found, his uncle was only able to recognize him by his initialed gold ring on his finger. During the trial, despite witness testimonial from Till’s uncle Mose Wright, the two men were found not guilty by an all white verdict. During that same trial, Donham also then testified that 14 year old Emmett Till grabbed and threatened her. Years later in a 2007 interview, Carolyn Bryant Donham revealed that Till never touched or threatened her. When asked about her testimony she said “That part’s not true”. 52 years later she decided to tell the truth, well we’re here to say too little too late. She saw the mutilation done to Till by her husband and his friend seeking to avenge her lies and stood by silently knowing they were wrong. She waited until the murders of Emmett were dead to reveal she was lying, but nonetheless perjury is a crime. Bryant’s family made an agreement with writer Timothy Tyson that her manuscripts are not released until she dies. Why? Because they do not want justice to be served!
If history is never learned from it will continue to repeat itself. We need to have justice for Emmet and have his history told. This is the same story that we are repeating now in 2020 as Black people are being murdered and there is no justice, this is nothing new. Now more than ever we must reveal the injustices done in this country towards Black people and seek restitution. Too often Black lives are taken without any consequences given to the perpetrators. We must be the ones to bring change! We must be the ones to bring justice!!
The two men were acquitted of Emmett’s murder soon after by an all-White jury, though they later admitted to the killing in an interview with Lookmagazine. Milam died in 1980 and Bryant died in 1994, but his widow — now Carolyn Bryant Donham — is still alive, and Emmett’s family hopes the warrant will lead to her arrest and, ultimately, justice.
The discovery of the warrant was first reported by the New York Amsterdam News, one of the nation’s oldest African American publications.
According to The New York Times, an affidavit attached to the warrant said the three “did willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and without lawful authority, forcibly seize and confine and kidnap” Emmett, though it misspelled his last name. A note on the back of the warrant says Donham was not arrested because she could not be located at the time, the Times reported, citing filmmaker Keith A. Beauchamp, who was part of the team that discovered the warrant.
In March of 2018, the Department of Justice reopened Emmett Till’s murder case and this is petitioning is calling for:
1) The arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham for perjury
2) Restitution of to the living family of Emmett Till (mandatory 5 to six figures)
3) Incorporation of the brutal murder of Emmett Till in all U.S history books
Sign the petition here for Change.org
Source: Sara Sidner, Tina Burnside and Dakin Andone, CNN, Change.org