The death of Carolyn Bryant Donham marks the end of a controversial life, and a case that shook the country. In 1955, the then-21-year-old falsely accused 14-year-old Emmett Till of making improper advances at a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Till was then kidnapped, tortured, and brutally murdered by white supremacists. The case became a defining moment in the civil rights movement, with Till’s mother insisting on an open-casket funeral in their hometown of Chicago and Jet magazine publishing photos of his mutilated body.
Bryant Donham’s false accusation was a stark reminder of the racism and segregation that was deeply embedded in American society at the time. Despite this, Bryant Donham lived out most of her life in relative obscurity, rarely speaking publicly about the case. In 2017, however, she admitted to lying about Till’s actions in an interview with author Timothy Tyson.
While Bryant Donham’s death may bring some closure to the case, the memory of Emmett Till and the fight for racial justice lives on.