White Lies: Carolyn Bryant Admits She Lied About Emmett Till Coming On To Her
A couple of weeks ago, when we reported about the White girl who lied on “Saturday Night Live” comedian Michael Che, a few people wondered how home girl’s actions could be construed racist. I said then and I’ll say again White privilege has given White women the benefit of the doubt. History has shown that her lies will be believed over a Black man’s truth.
This history of White women lying on Black men and getting away with it, is the reason why I, for the first time in my life, sided with Kim Kardashian when she exposed Taylor Swift’s play-the-victim, sweet-innocent-helpless-lying-White-girl ass. Her decision to lie on a Black man, calling him “intimidating” was not only morally sus, it was unoriginal. The South was decorated with the lynched bodies of Black men as a result of White women’s lies. In this country centered around myths of Black male hypersexuality and White women’s innocence and superiority, a White woman’s word holds more weight than it should. And if you don’t believe me, you need look no further than the facts recorded in the new book The Blood of Emmett Till.
According to Vanity Fair, the author Timothy Tyson sat down with Carolyn Bryant. You know Emmett Till’s name but may not have heard Bryant’s. And that is intentional. Bryant and Till’s paths crossed when he entered the grocery store her husband owned, to buy two cents worth of bubble gum. Allegedly, as Till was leaving the store, he whistled at 21-year-old Carolyn. (There are those who believe he never whistled at all but that he had a lisp.)
Later, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J.W. Milam were arrested and would stand trial for murdering Till, disfiguring him beyond recognition in the process.
During the trial, one of the most effective testimonies for the defense came from Carolyn Bryant. When she took the stand she said:
“Till had grabbed her and verbally threatened her. She said that while she was unable to utter the “unprintable” word he had used (as one of the defense lawyers put it), “he said [he had]’”—done something – “with white women before.’” Then she added, “I was just scared to death.” A version of her damning allegation was also made by the defendant’s lawyers to reporters. (The jury did not hear Carolyn’s words because the judge had dismissed them from the courtroom while she spoke, ruling that her testimony was not relevant to the actual murder. But the court spectators heard her, and her testimony was put on the record because the defense wanted her words as evidence in a possible appeal in the event that the defendants were convicted.)”
Though the NAACP banded together to produce witnesses and compelling evidence for the prosecution, an all-White jury in Mississippi found the two men “not guilty” in just over an hour.
In the years since Till’s death in 1955 and the trial that same year, Carolyn Bryant, now Bryant-Donham, would divorce her husband, marry two more times and live life as a recluse. Until, Timothy Tyson, a Duke University senior research scholar, found her 10 years ago. In her conversations with Tyson, Bryant-Donham confessed that she fabricated the most damning part of her testimony. When Tyson asked her about her claim that Emmett Till made verbal advances on her, she said,
“That part’s not true.”
As for the rest of the incident, Bryant, who is now 82, said she couldn’t remember.
Tyson said of his meetings with Bryant Donham that she had a “confessional spirit.” In fact, it was Bryant Donham who approached Tyson ten years ago to tell her story because she was writing her memoirs. Tyson said that Bryant Donham has been “altered by the social and legal advances that had overtaken the South in the intervening half century.” He remarked that she was glad things had changed, that the old system of White supremacy was wrong, though she took it as normal at the time. Still, she wasn’t willing to go as far as joining any racial reconciliation organizations or visiting the Emmett Till Interpretive Center.
While she didn’t go so far as to repent, Tyson says Bryant Donham told him,
“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”
She also said she felt “tender sorrow” for Till’s mother Mamie Till-Mobley. Carolyn lost one of her sons later and she thought about the grief Mamie Till must have felt and grieved all the more.
You can read the full article about Tyson’s book and his sit down with Bryant-Donham over at Vanity Fair.