There Will Be No Mourning Carolyn Bryant Donham

Whitney Alese
Published in
3 min readApr 27

Carolyn Bryant Donham has died.

The woman whose accusation set into motion the events that would result in the violent, inhumane death of 14-year-old Emmett Till, has left this life without accountability for her actions.

She died Tuesday evening in Westlake, Louisiana, according to the report filed Thursday in Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office in Louisiana.

In August of 1955, Donham accused Emmett of “improper advances”, alleging the teen, who was visiting family in Money, Mississippi, whistled at her. This accusation resulted in Emmett’s kidnap, beating, torture, and murder, his body dumped into a river tied to a fan.

The trial for Emmett’s murder was a sham. According to AP “Evidence indicates a woman identified Till to Donham’s then-husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam, who killed the teenager. An all-white jury acquitted the two white men in the killing, but the men later confessed in an interview with Look magazine.”

Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of Emmett Till, fought to have his body returned to Chicago after it was hastily ordered to be buried in Money. Her decision to have an open casket funeral is credited as one of the catalysts of the Civil Rights Movement. “Let them see what I’ve seen.” Mamie told the funeral director. September 3, 1955, Emmett’s funeral was held and thousands of mourners were in attendance. Photos of his body, bloated and disfigured, circulated. The movement for Civil Rights was ignited.

Mamie would spend the rest of her life educating and advocating for accountability for the murder of her son. She too would die without it.

Now that his accuser has passed, without any accountability for her role in the kidnapping, violent torture, and murder of a child. Our community had held onto hope for that accountability for decades…

Whitney Alese
Writer for

Whitney Alese is a writer & podcaster, featured in WIRED Magazine (Sept 2020) & I-D Magazine (Dec. 2021), and NBC (Jan 2023). She is based in Philadelphia.