Protesters looking for justice for Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955, crossed state lines to express outrage about police not arresting the woman at the center of his murder weeks after the discovery of a warrant issued for her detainment almost 70 years ago. The activists hope that local authorities will extradite the octogenarian back to the Magnolia State to face charges for her involvement in the death that some say sparked the civil rights era.
On Wednesday, July 6, dozens of demonstrators arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina, looking for Carolyn Bryant Donham, 88, who told her husband years ago that Till whistled at her while he was her country story in Money, Mississippi, prompting Roy Bryant and his brother J.W. Milam, and others who went unindicted to kidnap and kill the boy. This week’s demonstrators, who believe that the woman is living somewhere in or close to the North Carolina capital, have ventured to two residences to find her: an apartment building and a senior living facility.
They hope to identify her and then get local law enforcement agents to send her back to Mississippi where she can be charged, arrested, and tried for Till’s killing like Bryant and Milam.
The recent interest in her arrest comes weeks after a group from the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and Keith Beauchamp found the arrest warrant for the woman, dated Aug. 29, 1955, in the basement of a Mississippi courthouse.
The Mississippi Free Press published a copy of the warrant on Wednesday, June 29.
It read, “We command You To Take the Body of J W Milam, Roy Bryant, and Mrs. Roy Bryant if to be found in your County … to answer the State of Mississippi on a charge of Kidnapping.”
However, Mrs. Roy Bryant, now-Donham, was never picked up. Signifying who was arrested at the time, the sheriff’s office checked off Milam and Bryant’s names. Authorities now say despite the original date being decades ago, the woman can still serve the same warrant.
Fourth Circuit District Court of Mississippi District Attorney Dewayne Richardson has not spoken up regarding making an arrest.
The justice seekers are doing all that they can to make sure Donham is served her warrant.
One activist shouted outside of the senior home, “Time to face your demons. Come on out.”
Many of the residents in the facility said they were astounded by the presence of the demonstrators, with one sharing the site being placed on lockdown as a safety precaution. Raleigh police canvassed the location, just as some of the activists made their way inside.
One individual stated, according to the Daily Beast, “I do understand that Ms. Bryant is in her mid-to-late-80s, but understandably, this is a crime she committed when she was 22. Sixty years later, it’s time for her to be held accountable.”
Protesters say they will not stop searching for Donham, hoping to ensure she has her day of reckoning.
People on social media also chimed in. One person said, “She lived free for a long time while he is gone forever.” Another person added, “They were gonna drag her out like the men that came and got him.”
This will be a challenge since the Department of Justice officially closed the case in December of 2021.
According to the agency, prosecution of Donham would be impossible because “no federal hate crime laws existed in 1955, and the statute of limitations has run on the only civil-rights statutes that were in effect at the time.”