For decades, the story of Emmett Till’s 1955 lynching went something like this: Till, then 14, was visiting relatives in Mississippi from his hometown of Chicago when he whistled at a white woman in a local store. News of the transgression quickly spread, and days later he was found brutally beaten, shot and drowned. One of his eyes had been gouged out, and his face had swelled beyond recognition.
Now, Vanity Fair details how author and professor Timothy B. Tyson wound up correcting a crucial detail of that story in his forthcoming book, The Blood of Emmett Till.
As Tyson reveals, Carolyn Bryant, the white woman at whom Till had allegedly whistled, lied in parts of her testimony.
Bryant, whose husband, Roy Bryant, and another white man named J.W. Milam, were put on trial and later acquitted in Till’s death, was put on the stand. Her testimony undoubtedly swayed the verdict. She said that what Till had said to her was “unprintable” but that he had bragged about being “with white women before.” To top it off, she told the judge, “I was just scared to death.”
Except that she wasn’t. Because it never happened. And she confessed as much a decade ago.
From Vanity Fair: