Emmett Till’s cousin sues to force a Mississippi sheriff to arrest white woman

Emmett Till’s cousin has sued to force a Mississippi sheriff to serve a 1955 arrest warrant on the white woman who allegedly sparked the kidnapping and brutal lynching of the 14-year-old boy.

Relatives and members of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation were searching a Mississippi courthouse basement for evidence in the notorious murder when they found the 1955 warrant for Carolyn Bryant.

Now, Till’s cousin, Patricia Sterling of Jackson, Miss., has filed a federal lawsuit against the current Leflore County sheriff, Ricky Banks.

Jackson wants Banks to follow through on the warrant for Carolyn Bryant, who has since remarried and is now known as Carolyn Bryant Donham. The warrant was discovered in June.

Emmett Till and Carolyn Bryant Donham
Emmett Till was kidnapped and lynched in 1955. At right is Carolyn Bryant Donham, who accused the boy of improper advances.

Donham — then just Carolyn Bryant and 21 years old — accused Till of making improper advances and obscene comments toward her while she was working the register of her family’s store in Money, Miss., in August 1955.

Till, who was in town from Chicago to visit relatives, allegedly whistled at Donham, according to a cousin who witnessed the interaction. Such an interaction violated the racist code of behavior in the Jim Crow-era South.

“We are using the available means at our disposal to try to achieve justice on behalf of the Till family,” Sterling’s attorney, Trent Walker, said Friday.

“But for Carolyn Bryant falsely claiming to her husband that Emmett Till assaulted her Emmett would not have been murdered,” Sterling said in court papers. “It was Carolyn Bryant’s lie that sent Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam into a rage, which resulted in the mutilation of Emmett Till’s body into (an) unrecognizable condition.”

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