Chicago Sun-Times

HIS­TO­RIAN: KEY TILL WIT­NESS AD­MITS FALSE TES­TI­MONY

- AP Na­tional Writer BY HIL­LEL ITALIE

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.

His­to­rian Ti­mothy B. 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.

“She told me that ‘ Noth­ing that boy did could ever jus­tify what hap­pened to him,’” said Tyson, a Duke Uni­ver­sity re­search scholar whose pre­vi­ous books in­clude “Blood Done Sign My Name” and “Ra­dio Free Dixie.”

Em­mett Till was a 14- year- old African- Amer­i­can from Chicago who was tor­tured and killed in 1955 in Mis­sis­sippi af­ter al­legedly whistling at a white woman, then known as Carolyn Bryant.

His mur­der be­came na­tional news, was a gal­va­niz­ing event in the civil rights move­ment and has been the sub­ject of numer­ous books and movies. Dur­ing the trial, Bryant said that he had grabbed her, and, in pro­fane terms, bragged about his his­tory with white woman. The jury was not present when she tes­ti­fied.

Don­ham’s then- hus­band, Roy Bryant, and his half- brother, J. W. Milam, were ac­quit­ted by the all- white jury. Both men, who later told Look magazine they did mur­der Till, have since died. Milam’s widow, Juanita Milam, would later tell the FBI she be­lieved that Carolyn Bryant had fab­ri­cated her story. Juanita Milam died in 2014. The Jus­tice Depart­ment re- ex­am­ined the case a decade ago, but no one was in­dicted as a mur­derer or an ac­com­plice.

On Satur­day, the maker of a doc­u­men­tary on Till said he had long been sure that Bryant’s story was false.

“His mother had men­tioned that Em­mett had a speech im­ped­i­ment and that the things Bryant claimed he was say­ing he could not have said eas­ily,” said Keith Beauchamp, whose “The Un­told Story of Em­mett Till” came out in 2005.

Tyson said that he spoke with Don­ham af­ter her daugh­ter- in­law, Mar­sha Bryant, con­tacted him. Bryant had read “Blood Done Sign My Name,” about a racist mur­der dur­ing his child­hood in Ox­ford, North Carolina, and in­vited Tyson to meet with her and Don­ham.

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 ??  ?? Em­mett Till’s photo adorns his grave in Al­sip. | SUN- TIMES FILES
Em­mett Till’s photo adorns his grave in Al­sip. | SUN- TIMES FILES

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