DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A piece of history found in a Mississippi courthouse basement is bringing new attention to the death of Emmett Till that occurred in 1955.
The item found was an unserved arrest warrant for Carolyn Bryant Donham, who now lives in Raleigh.
Till’s death came shortly after Donham accused the 14-year-old of groping her and whistling at her, sparking outrage across the country.
Tim Tyson, a Duke University research scholar, and the author of ‘The Blood of Emmett Till,’ said he’s not hopeful that the warrant will actually do anything considering it’s now more than 60 years old.
If it does do something, though, Tyson said he’d be fine with that, because he’s the one person that Bryant-Donham has confessed to about lying in the case.
“What she confessed to me was only that she lied in court,” Tyson said. “She confessed to perjury in 1955.”
Tyson said he has “no idea” why Bryant-Donham confessed to him. But because he interviewed her only a few years ago, legally, her confession meant nothing.
“That’s just perjury, and the statute of limitations for perjury is just two years, so she had legally been cleared of anything she told me (as of) 1957,” Tyson said.
In 1955, Bryant-Donham accused Till of whistling at her and groping her. Days later, the teenage boy was taken from a family home and murdered.
Rod Bryant and J.W. Milam, the two men put on trial for the killing, were acquitted by an all-white jury.
Tyson said what followed, though, is often left out of the history books.
“What gets left out is how African Americans across the country rose up and protested against the case and protested against the acquittals,” he said.
And now with an unserved warrant for Bryant-Donham being found, Tyson said he wants people to realize that Till’s story isn’t ancient history.
“I would hope that at the very least, it calls us back to memory of this case that speaks to a lot of things that are still happening,” Tyson said. “In many respects, we’re still killing Emmett Till, and the question eternally, is what are we going to do about it?”
Since Tyson’s book was published a few years ago, some of Bryant-Donham’s family members have said she never confessed to lying.