Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman whose allegations led to the brutal lynching of Emmett Till, passed away on April 25, 2023, at the age of 88 in hospice care in Westlake, Louisiana, according to the Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office.
Till was a 14-year-old Black boy who was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, when he was accused of making “improper advances” and wolf-whistling at Donham, who was then known as Caroline Bryant, in her family’s store.
Her allegations led to Till’s kidnapping, torture, and murder by Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, who were later acquitted by an all-white jury.
Till’s mother, Mamie Till, made the courageous decision to have an open casket at her son’s funeral to show the world the brutality of his death, making Till an icon of the civil rights movement.
In 2022, an unserved arrest warrant for Carolyn Bryant was discovered, which was initiated by Till’s family members and the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation.
Some hoped this would lead to her prosecution for her alleged role in Till’s death, but the office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said there was no new evidence to pursue a criminal case against Donham.
Even with the discovery of the arrest warrant, a grand jury declined to indict Donham for Till’s death.
Till’s cousin, Priscilla Sterling, recently filed a lawsuit against Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks, but his attorney said there was “no point” in serving the arrest warrant to Donham because of her previous indictment.
Donham’s death means that she was the last person with any involvement in the case, making it impossible for her to be prosecuted.
Devery Anderson, author of ‘Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement,’ commented on Donham’s passing, saying that some had been holding on to the hope that she could be held accountable.
Anderson said, “Now that can’t happen.” Donham’s family has yet to make a statement on her death.
The murder of Emmett Till remains a painful reminder of the deep-seated racism and hatred that has plagued America.
It also underscores the importance of continuing to fight for racial justice and equality.
As Till’s legacy continues to live on, his story serves as a powerful reminder of the tragic consequences of hate and bigotry.