Emmett Till protestors storm senior home to get retribution on ‘white woman’ blamed for his lynching

A bizarre and ominous scene played out recently in a senior living facility in Mississippi, when a crowd of “Emmett Till protestors,” including Black Panther activists, invaded the building in search of the woman accused of sparking the chain of events that led to the boy’s murder some 67 years ago.

After the discovery last week of an unserved arrest warrant for the woman in the basement of a Mississippi courthouse, Till’s family and activists are out for justice.

The case dates back to 1955, when Carolyn Bryant Donham, then 22, accused the 14-year-old Emmett Till of whistling at her in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi, where she worked. That accusation prompted her husband, Roy Bryant, and half-brother, J. W. Milan, to abduct, torture, and finally execute Till before dumping his body in the Tallahatchie River.

His horrifically mutilated body was exhibited in an open casket at his funeral, shocking the nation. Although the two men were eventually arrested for the boy’s murder and admitted guilt in the case, double-jeopardy laws prevented them from being prosecuted.

Now, old wounds have been reopened by the discovery last week of an unserved warrant for Carolyn Bryant Donham, who is now in her 80s.

“You cannot ignore this,” explained Till’s cousin, Priscilla Sterling, according to the Daily Mail. “If this is what’s needed to do for us to change our mindset, our behaviors and attitudes in the society, then this will do it. This will do it. Execute the warrant.”

One member of the group that invaded the senior facility told local news outlet WRAL: “I do understand that Ms. Bryant is in her mid-to-late-80s, but understandably, this is a crime she committed when she was 22. Sixty years later, it’s time for her to be held accountable.”

Meanwhile, Donham’s daughter-in-law, Marsha Bryant, says that her in-law “had nothing to do with it,” and that Donham was “appalled” by the circumstances of Till’s murder.

“They think she should die or go to jail forever,” she said. “They think what happened to Emmett Till should happen to her.”

The group that stormed the senior living facility was led by Malik Shabazz, the Lead Counsel for Black Lawyers for Justice and former Chairman of the New Black Panther Party. The mob apparently got wind that Donham was in the unnamed facility, and organized the well-recorded stunt which seemed to have been done more in the interests of attracting media attention rather than serving justice.

“We on the move,” Shabazz can be heard saying in a Facebook Live of the event. “We don’t know how they’re hiding this white woman down here, they’re hiding Carolyn Bryant Donham. They’re calling the police, but we’re on the move. We know she’s in here.”

At that point, the stunt devolved into farce. The activists—among whom were some who appeared to have donned bulletproof vests—filed into a room occupied by a group of confused-looking old folks who were milling about in wheelchairs.

J. W. Milan (left), Donham’s half-brother; Roy Bryant (center), Donham’s husband; Carolyn Bryant Donham (right), close to the time of Till’s murder. (AP)

“What does she look like?” one woman asked when grilled by the activists if she knew Donham.

“The false accuser of Emmett Till, the one that said that Emmett Till had sexually assaulted her…she lives in this building,” Shabazz proclaimed.

“No, honey, she does not live in this facility. She lives in a nursing home, this is not a nursing home,” the woman replied, and refused to name the precise facility where she believed Donham was located.

At that point, with their purpose thwarted, the group left the building while chanting “no justice, no peace” and “black power.”

The activists have visited two other residences, which were listed under Donham’s name, taping eviction notice papers to the doors; the search for Donham apparently still continues. The Department of Justice, however, declared the Till case closed in December, citing the expiration of the statute of limitations in the case, as well as the fact that federal “hate crime” laws didn’t exist in 1955.


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Todd Jaquith


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