Categories: News

Carolyn Bryant Donham Does Not Deserve Our Forgiveness

Donham, the woman who was at the center of Emmett Till’s death back in 1955, admitted that her testimony against Till was fabricated.

Vanity Fair published a story that tells of how author Timothy Tyson came to talk with Carolyn Bryant Donham for his forthcoming book, The Blood of Emmett Till.

Donham, the woman who was at the center of Emmett Till‘s death back in 1955, admitted to Tyson in 2007 that her testimony against Till was fabricated. “That part’s not true,” Donham had said in regards to her remarks when she claimed Till had made physical and verbal advances on her.

The Vanity Fair piece goes on to say that Donham “felt tender sorrow” throughout her years, essentially painting the now 82-year-old woman as the antithesis of the 21-year-old that incited one of the most horrific race-related deaths in the history of America.

Does Donham deserve forgiveness for her admittance? Should we turn the other cheek like we have been taught to do time and time again, in the face of someone who fails to do the same for us?

Absolutely. 100. Percent. Fucking. Not.

Two weeks prior to the Donham reveal came the announcement of Dylann Roof‘s sentencing to death, following his shooting of a Charleston church that left nine people dead. Still, even as Roof remained remorseless throughout the trial, many of the families of those slaughtered forgave him.

Black people in America have been conditioned to patiently wait for accountability — for justice. We grow weary throughout the years, never knowing if we are going to witness it in our lifetime, never gaining closure that has weighed on us in ways that most people could never, ever fathom.

We have also been conditioned to forgive people who are undeserving of our forgiveness; that fail to see that just like them all we want is an acknowledgment of our humanity — our existence.

Donham was able to absolve herself of the situation. Following her courtroom testimony she disappeared into obscurity for decades, and was able to witness her children grow up as she continued on with normal life.

Mamie Till never received the same opportunity — same privilege. Instead, she was greeted by the battered and beaten body of her dead 14-year-old son. Her pained and tearful face; her son’s bloated and bloody face — those two faces are hard to remove from one’s mind once seen. Mamie and Emmett will forever be immortalized in black pain — faces that reflect an ongoing fight in this country against bigotry and hate — two words that, in the rise of the Trump presidency, have made a resurgence.

Last year, America witnessed a woman livestream her boyfriend die right before her eyes, after a police officer fatally shot him.

This year, we have seen a resurgence of interest in Kalief Browder, the teenager who was wrongly accused of robbery and served three years at Rikers Island awaiting trial under the abusive hand of guards. He ultimately took his own life two years after being released.

As black people, we wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait, for justice. For the people who have wronged us to finally come forth and hold themselves accountable, because it is that that leads to true progress.

However, I have no sympathy for Donham. I have no sympathy for a person that knowingly accused someone of something he never did, only to admit it more than 60 years later. I have no sympathy for a grown woman who jeopardized the life of a teenage boy and vilified his humanity. I have no sympathy for a woman who was able to retreat from the consequences of her actions, while a mother had to not only face the hate and vitriol of an entire nation, but saw her son become an involuntary martyr for a movement bigger than himself, when all she wanted for him was for him to have a chance at life.

Carolyn Bryant Donham does not deserve forgiveness, her late admittance necessary to the fiber of this country’s racist history, but not atonement to an incident that never, ever needed to happen.

Elijah C. Watson is a staff writer for Okayplayer + Chucotown’s realest OG. Any thoughts, questions or comments direct them to his Twitter @ElijahCWatson.

Elijah C. Watson

Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When he's not writing he's listening to Sade and crying or watching My Hero Academia with his partner.

View Comments

  • Carolyn Bryant Donham NEEDS to be Arrested , Tried and Jailed for Her False Testimony against Mr.Emmett Till...Plain and Simple...Just like the Nazi's who have been brought to Justice 60 years (or more) after the Holocaust, Her Crime still needs to be Brought before a Court of Law...IMMEDIATELY! ,,There is NO Statue of Limitations on MURDER.
    The Woman is EVIL ! JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED !

    • Naw son...she needs to be taken out into the streets and beaten with a baseball bat....period. This evil b***h got a little boy brutally murdered for nothing!!!! She deserves what was bestowed upon him!!!! I'm 44 years old and when my mom told me about this when I was child I cried, not because I was scared but because how he died and the pain he must of felt. I cried because I realized how evil these ignorant a** rednecks were and nothing was done because no one could do anything about it. This old b***h needs to die!!!!

    • She's 83. She might have dementia and the state is not putting an 83 year old and paying even more for medical costs + incarceration.

    • the "she-Dog" was widely known around town as a "Crossroads Marylin Monroe"

      She hated the Grocery store her husband forced her to work in with the kids, She wanted to escape the store.

      That's was why she lied!
      The racist attitude was why she remained silent, till now,

      now she sees another opportunity to generate some money , albeit in the year 2038 for some odd reason.

    • sadly no, as her memoirs are sealed till 2038, & after the autopsy done on Emmet till in 2004, a grand jury ruled as lack of evidence to proceed with a charge

    • No, because she didn't testify under oath, for this exact reason. I just watched an interview with Simeon Wright, Emmett's cousin who was with him in the store that day. He mentions this, that her lawyer was smart that way...

      The video is on youtube and called "Civil Rights History Project: Simeon Wright". Apparently links aren't accepted here but I really recommend watching it. He said a lot of things I didn't know and clarified some things.

      • oy vey. That is truly unfortunate. This was really stacked against that family (and the black community in general) from the first second of this, and she holds as much responsibility as anyone else in this tragic case. I hope that she is just underselling her feelings in her old age for the media. I hope she is absolutely tortured till her dying day for this. Thanks for the pointer, I will check out that youtube video.

  • You're right as can be; that women deserves NO forgiveness whatsoever; She is as guilty and then some as her husband and brother in law. She can rot in Hell where she belongs

  • I'm actually thinking Ms. Bryant-Donham could be charged in some capacity as an accessory to Emmett Till's murder. Afterall, it was her false statements to her husband and brother-in-law that set-off the motive for the actual murder itself.. If they re-opened this case with the fervor of a Grand Jury just a few years ago, looking for accessories to prosecute?? Why not go after her?? No statute of limitations for murder or accessory to murder....

  • This is beyond repulsive, I doubt anyone with half a brain cell would ever believe those bigoted maggots. I'd love to see someone arrest the old hag before Steve Bannon makes Putin's Bubble Boy give her the Congressional medal of honor.

  • I hope Carolyn Bryant Donham has suffered in a life she rightly should have spent in prison. She should shut her ugly mouth and let us forget she still breathes.

    • I'm gonna bet she has. When you read about the case, or read interviews with her husband, you get an idea what kind of person he was... there's no way he didn't regularly beat her black and blue. I have people like him in my family in the south. Women don't live happy lives in those households, trust me.

      I too hope she shrivels away in silence now, since she can't even show remorse after all these years.

  • She caused it no matter how much of an abuser her husband was, and no matter how much the white man f'ed up the south. A boy died because of her

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Elijah C. Watson

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