In memoir, wife in Till murder says she didn’t want him killed. Biden to meet with Saudi Crown Prince despite human rights criticism.
In memoir, wife in Till murder says she didn’t want him killed
In 1955, near Money, MS, Carolyn Bryant (now Donham) accused black teen Emmett Till of whistling at her. Two days later, her husband and brother-in-law kidnapped and lynched him, leaving his body in a creek. An all-white jury later acquitted the two men of Till’s murder, though they later confessed in a magazine interview. Bryant-Donham was never charged for her role in the affair. She’s now in her late 80s and was last known to be living near Raleigh, NC.
Over a decade ago, author Timothy Tyson interviewed Mrs. Bryant-Donham about the murder. During that interview, Tyson obtained an unpublished manuscript of Bryant-Donham’s memoir, titled “I am More Than A Wolf Whistle”. The memoir is in Bryant-Donham’s words but compiled by her daughter-in-law. It purports to offer Bryant-Donham’s full account of the events surrounding Till’s murder.
Following that interview, Tyson provided a copy of the memoir to the FBI, then submitted it to University of North Carolina archives with the understanding that it would not be made public for decades. However, Tyson had a change of heart after the recent discovery of the original unserved warrant ordering the then-Mrs. Bryant’s arrest in Emmett Till’s kidnapping in the basement of the Leflore County, MS, courthouse. Tyson says the discovery prompted him to end the archival agreement and release the manuscript early.
“The potential for an investigation was more important than the archival agreements, though those are important things,” Tyson said. “But this is probably the last chance for an indictment in this case”.
What’s in the memoir?
The 99-page manuscript contains some statements which contradict known evidence and others which simply strain credulity.
The story began in 1955 when 14-year-old Emmett Till of Chicago came to visit his Mississippi relatives. He encountered then-Mrs. Bryant at the store she ran with her then-husband, Roy. At the time, Mrs. Bryant accused Till of grabbing her and making sexual advances. In the memoir, Bryant-Donham claims she screamed for help after her encounter with Till. This contradicts statements from witnesses who heard no scream.
Speaking of the night of Till’s kidnapping, Bryant-Donham claims that she did not ride with her husband Roy and Roy’s half-brother J.W. Milam to Till’s uncle’s house. This contradicts the account of Till’s uncle, who heard a woman’s voice say “that’s him” when Roy and Milam presented Till for identification.
Instead, the memoir claims that Roy and Milam brought the boy to her in the middle of the night. “I did not wish Emmett any harm and could not stop harm from coming to him, since I didn’t know what was planned for him,” the manuscript reads. “I tried to protect him by telling Roy that ‘He’s not the one. That’s not him. Please take him home’”. Bryant-Donham then makes the extraordinary claim that Till spoke up and identified himself!
Bryant-Donham then offers the following sentiments. Firstly, she says she “always felt like a victim as well as Emmett” and “paid dearly with an altered life” for what happened to him. Secondly, she says, “I have always prayed that God would bless Emmett’s family. I am truly sorry for the pain his family was caused”.
Will there be an indictment or investigation?
In 2017, Tyson claimed that Bryant-Donham had recanted her claim that Till had sexually harassed her. On this basis, the Justice Department reopened the investigation. However, Bryant-Donham told the FBI she’d never recanted her accusation. Since Tyson could not produce the recordings to back up his claim, the DOJ closed the investigation last year.
Tyson says Bryant-Donham’s statements exonerating herself should be taken with “a good-sized shovel full of salt”. He’s particularly skeptical about Till identifying himself to Roy and Milam. “Two big white men with guns came and dragged him out of his aunt and great-uncle’s house at 2 o’clock in the morning in the Mississippi Delta in 1955,” Tyson says. “I do not believe for one minute that he identified himself”.
Till’s family says Mississippi authorities should re-investigate the case, execute the original warrant, and possibly indict Bryant-Donham. Warrants of this type never expire and this one was never served. At the time, the local sheriff said he didn’t want to “bother” Mrs. Bryant as she had two young boys to raise.
Keith Beauchamp, a filmmaker and one of those who recently uncovered the warrant, says the memoir shows that Bryant-Donham, “is culpable in the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till and to not hold her accountable for her actions, is an injustice to us all”.
At present, there doesn’t seem to be much official appetite for an investigation or an indictment. But with growing public attention, that could change.
Biden to meet with Saudi Prince despite human rights criticism
Yesterday, while meeting with newly-minted Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Biden reiterated that the US may use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Today, Biden is meeting with Palestinian leaders before heading to Saudi Arabia for his first official visit since taking office. This will be the first official meeting between a US President and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (or MBS) since the brutal 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey. MBS is widely believed to have ordered and orchestrated Khashoggi’s murder.
During his campaign, Biden rejected the idea of visiting Saudi Arabia, let alone meeting the Crown Prince, because of Khashoggi’s murder and other human rights violations Saudi Arabia is engaged in. However, Biden changed his tune once gas hit $5 a gallon in the US. MBS has consistently rejected calls to increase his country’s oil output. Biden may be hoping to smooth over the apparent diplomatic friction.
It’s also likely that MBS has other goals in mind, aside from having Biden kiss the ring. Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen, its impoverished neighbor to the south, for 8 years. During that time, the Kingdom has also been blockading Yemen, causing dire food and medicine shortages. The blockade itself is in violation of international law. Biden cited this as his reason for not selling offensive weapons to the Kingdom, in contrast to Trump who sold them billions of dollars’ worth of weapons. However, Biden has been selling them defensive weapons, many of which can be used offensively. MBS may be hoping that rising oil prices may induce Biden to sell him more weapons.
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