By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – The family of Emmett Till has unearthed a nearly 67-year-old arrest warrant for the white woman whose discredited accusations against the Black teenager led to his lynching, a brutal death that helped ignite the civil rights movement.
Last week, a team that included family members searching files in Greenwood, Mississippi, found the arrest warrant for kidnapping for Carolyn Bryant Donham, the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation said. Donham, who could not be reached on Thursday, claimed in 1955 that Till touched her and made sexual advances toward her.
“Execute the warrant!” the organization posted on Instagram with a photograph of the warrant.
Duke University Professor Timothy Tyson had alluded to the warrant in a 2017 book, writing that days after the murder the local sheriff told reporters he did not want to “bother the woman” by serving it because she was a mother of two small boys.
Last year the U.S. Justice Department said it failed to prove Donham lied about Till, though the department said there was “considerable doubt as to the credibility of her version of events.”
The Justice Department closed without charges a probe opened after the publication of Tyson’s book, in which he wrote that Donham had told him in 2008 that parts of her testimony about Till were untrue.
On Aug. 28, 1955, Till, visiting from Chicago, was beaten, shot and mutilated in Money, Mississippi, four days after Donham accused him of whistling at her. Later, Donham accused Till of grabbing her waist and making sexual remarks.
The decision by Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, to hold an open-casket funeral showing her son’s tortured body was a galvanizing moment in the nation’s civil rights movement.
The Aug. 29, 1955, warrant ordered Donham, her husband at the time Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, to be arrested for kidnapping.
An all-white jury later acquitted the two white men of murdering Till. The men later confessed in a paid magazine interview. Bryant died in 1994 and Milam in 1981.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Donna Bryson and Matthew Lewis)