NEW YORK — The woman at the center of the trial of Emmett Till’s alleged killers has acknowledged that she falsely testified he made physical and verbal threats, according to a new book.
Author Timothy Tyson told The Associated Press on Saturday that Carolyn Donham broke her long public silence in an interview with him in 2008. His book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” comes out next week.
Emmett Till was a 14-year-old black teenager tortured and killed in 1955 in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman, then known as Carolyn Bryant. His murder became national news and was a galvanizing event in the civil rights movement. Donham’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were acquitted by an all-white jury. Both men have since died.
The revelations were first reported on Friday by Vanity Fair.
“I was hoping that one day she would admit it, so it matters to me that she did, and it gives me some satisfaction,” Till’s cousin Wheeler Parker told The New York Times. “It’s important to people understanding how the word of a white person against a black person was law, and a lot of black people lost their lives because of it. It really speaks to history, it shows what black people went through in those days.”
Parker, a 77-year-old pastor who lives near Chicago, said he harbors no ill will toward Donham, now 82, and hopes her admission brings her peace.
“I can’t hate,” he said. “Hate destroys the hater, too. That’s a heavy burden to carry.”