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A 1955 warrant in the Emmett Till case has been discovered, renewing calls from the family for an arrest

Emmett Till.


  • A group searching the basement of a Mississippi courthouse located a 1955 warrant regarding the Emmett Till case.
  • The discovery has renewed calls for the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham, who falsely accused the Black teenager of making improper advances.
  • The Justice Department last year closed their investigation into the high-profile case.

A group searching for contents related to the 1955 lynching of Black teenager Emmett Till in the basement of a Mississippi courthouse has uncovered an unserved arrest warrant for the white woman whose allegations led to his kidnapping and murder, according to The Associated Press.

The discovery has now renewed calls from Till’s relatives for the arrest of the women, Carolyn Bryant Donham — now age 88.  

The document was discovered late last month in Greenwood, Miss., inside a file folder that had been left in a box. Leflore County Circuit Clerk Elmus Stockstill certified the form as authentic, per the report.

Relatives of Till are hoping that the discovery of the warrant prompts a new investigation into his murder, which was a catalyst for the emerging civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Bryant Donham, who is named on the arrest warrant as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” — the name of her late husband who was one of the men tried and acquitted. She was never arrested or charged in the case. She is still alive and as of May, was residing in North Carolina, according to the most recent public records.

Donham was married to Roy Bryant when she accused Till — who was visiting Mississippi from Chicago — of making improper advances while at the couple’s store, Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Miss., in August 1955.

The accusation prompted Bryant and his half-brother, J. W. Milam, to abduct Till at gunpoint from the home of his great-uncle, Moses Wright, then tortured and lynch the teenager before throwing his body into the Tallahatchie River.

Till’s battered body was weighed down by a cotton-gin fan and was found several days later.

His face was left unrecognizable. But, at his funeral service in Chicago, Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted that her son have an open casket to show the brutality and horror of what her son endured.

The newly-discovered warrant, dated August 29, 1955, charged the two white men involved in the crime — along with Donham — with the kidnapping of Till. 

Emmett Till 2File photos of John W. Milam, 35, left, his half-brother Roy Bryant, 24 , centre, who go on trial in Sumner, Miss., Sept. 18, 1955, are charged with the murder of 14-year-old African American Emmett L.Till from Chicago, who is alleged to have “wolf-whistled” and made advances at Bryant’s wife Carolyn, seen right.


An affidavit found with the warrant stated that the three individuals did “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and without lawful authority, forcibly seize and confine and kidnap Emmitt Lewis Tell.” (Emmett’s first and last names are misspelled on the document, along with his middle name, Louis.)

The two white men who committed the crime were acquitted, but in a 1956 article in Look magazine, they confessed to the murder. 

Both men have since passed away.

Keith Beauchamp, a filmmaker who directed a 2005 documentary, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” told The New York Times that the discovery of the warrant was “a jackpot.”

“I hope that the authorities will do the job they were supposed to do in 1955,” he told the newspaper.

In past years, efforts to press forward on the case have stalled; a grand jury in 2007 declined to issue new indictments. 

And just last year, the Department of Justice said there was insufficient evidence for federal charges and closed the case.

But after the group of researchers located the warrant in the courthouse, it was difficult for many of them to hold back their emotions.

“There were a lot of tears in the room,” Beauchamp told The Times.

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