The family of Emmett Till and supporters are calling on authorities in Mississippi to once again reopen an investigation into the Black teen’s horrific lynching as well as prosecute the White woman he was accused of flirting with.
Till was lynched after accusations that he flirted with a White woman named Carolyn Bryant Donham. His killing on August 28, 1955, set the growing Civil Rights Movement into motion and caused a rallying cry nationwide. Four days before his killing, it was rumored that he had flirted with Bryant. This speculation led to two White men kidnapping Till, later beating him, and shooting him dead.
At a press conference on Friday, Till’s cousin, Deborah Watts, said authorities have over the last decades known Donham played a crucial part in his lynching, adding that she needs to be held accountable for her actions, the Associated Press reported. Donham is in her 80s and currently resides in North Carolina.
“Time is not on our side,” Watts said.
The petition to have authorities re-investigate Till’s lynching was signed by around 250,000 people. But in a statement, Michelle Williams, the chief of staff for Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, said it was unlikely another investigation will be opened.
“This is a tragic and horrible crime, but the FBI, which has far greater resources than our office, has investigated this matter twice and determined that there is nothing more to prosecute,” said Williams.
In December, the Justice Department announced it was closing its re-investigation of the 14-year-old’s lynching. That investigation came after a book that was published in 2017 alleged Donham admitted she lied about Till flirting with her. But during the investigation, Bryant denied that she recanted her testimony in an interview with the FBI. The FBI concluded that “there was insufficient evidence to prove that she lied to the FBI by denying that she recanted her testimony,” ABC News reported.
Relatives have also publicly refuted the allegations of Donham recanting her claims. Authorities added that Timothy B. Tyson, who is a historian and author of the book The Blood of Emmett Till, failed to provide recordings and transcripts to corroborate his claims of Donham recanting her claim of what transpired between her and Till.
Bryant’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam were charged with Till’s murder and acquitted by an all-white jury. Both men, who have since died, confessed to the killing in a paid magazine interview months later.
But the Justice Department also established Bryant and Milam weren’t the only people behind Till’s lynching. Officials estimate that either half a dozen or over 14 people were involved in his killing.