Don't Bother to 'RIP' Death of Woman Who Falsely Accused Emmett Till
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Don't Bother to 'RIP' Death of Woman Who Falsely Accused Emmett Till

Carolyn Bryant Donham died at 88, reminding us again of justice unserved

The woman whose accusation against Emmett Till led to his horrific death in 1955 has finally died at the age of 88, outliving Till by roughly 74 years.

Carolyn Bryant Donham accused Till, who was visiting from Chicago, of touching her, whistling at her, and harassing her when she was working alone in a general store in Money, Miss. The story, which she later recanted in an interview, led to her husband and her husband's half brother abducting, torturing, and murdering Till. The horrific state of Till's body prompted the teen's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, to opt for an open-casket funeral. It was a key moment in the civil rights struggle. It's a story that has been told and retold in popular culture, most recently in the movie Till, which will stream on Amazon Prime next month.

Donham was never brought to trial or held accountable for her role in Till's murder. Decades after, historian Timothy Tyson said she told him in an interview that parts of her story were made up. A 2017 book by Tyson followed up on that around the time the FBI said it was reopening the investigation, but in an unpublished memoir draft by Donham found last year, she doubled down on her original story, but said she had not intended for it to lead to Till's death.

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One of Till's cousins, Ollie Gordon, told NPR that the family has mixed emotions about Donham's death. "She was never tried in the court of man. But I think she was judged by God, and his wrath is more punitive than any judgment or penalty she could have gotten in a courtroom. I don't think she had a pleasant or happy life."

If you know Till's story (and if you don't, get yourself educated), you're more than welcome not to "RIP" this one. It's one of those deaths that doesn't bring any closure or resolution to one of history's most notorious crimes.