Feeling Sorry for Elderly Accuser of Emmett Till? Don't

Charles Blow takes on Carolyn Bryant Donham after parts of her unpublished memoir leak
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2022 11:21 AM CDT
Don't Feel Sorry for Emmett Till's Accuser
In this 1955 file photo, Carolyn Bryant poses for a photo.   (AP Photo/Gene Herrick, File)

(Newser) – If you're tempted to feel moved by the words written in a recently leaked unpublished memoir by Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman who accused Black teen Emmett Till of untoward advances, leading to his murder, just ... don't, according to Charles Blow. In his latest op-ed for the New York Times, the columnist writes that in her newly revealed memoir, Donham—who was married to one of the men acquitted for killing Till, though he later admitted he was culpable—writes that she "tried to protect" the 14-year-old, and how, in what Blow describes as "an astonishing stroke of insensitivity," she'd "always felt like a victim as well as Emmett." Blow isn't standing for that, noting that the octogenarian has "been alive and breathing for nearly 67 years since Till's bloated body was fished out of the Tallahatchie River with the fan of a cotton gin tied around his neck."

Blow details how Donham not only accused the teen of making improper advances toward her, but also claimed he'd forcefully grabbed her by the hand and around the waist, effectively alleging he'd physically assaulted her. Blow also notes how Donham called Till the n-word during her husband Roy Bryant's trial and how her story has apparently shifted over the years, including on how Till had supposedly grabbed her. Blow takes particular aim at how she, and others, had labeled Till a "man" during the trial—an "adultification of Black children" that continues into the present day, such as in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally gunned down by police in 2014 in a Cleveland park. In short, per Blow: Donham "has failed at every turn to offer a redeeming word or action for the boy's murder and her part in it. ... Don't shed a single tear for her." Read his full column. (Read more Emmett Till stories.)

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