A white woman who made false claims against Black youth Emmett Till that resulted in his lynching in 1955 has died in Louisiana, according to a coroner's report. This is a representational image. Ichigo121212 / Pixabay

A white woman who made false claims against Black youth Emmett Till that resulted in his lynching in 1955 has died in Louisiana, according to a coroner's report.

In part due to his mother's open-casket funeral and the image of her son's deformed body that was published in Black media at the time, Till's murder in Mississippi helped spark the Civil Rights movement.

According to the Calcasieu Parish coroner's office, Carolyn Bryant Donham, 88, died on Tuesday in Westlake, Louisiana. She was the final survivor who had a direct role in the investigation.

On Aug. 28, 1955, in Money, Mississippi, Till, a visitor from Chicago, was assaulted, shot, and maimed, four days after Donham, then 21 years old, accused him of whistling at her.

When Till was accused, kidnapped, and killed for this incident, he was traveling from Chicago to see relatives in Mississippi.

Days later, his deformed body was discovered in a river. When Mamie Till Mobley, his mother, buried her son in Chicago, she decided to open the coffin, igniting the fledgling civil rights movement.

The murder of Till and the acquittal of two white men who later admitted to the crime by an all-white jury brought the violence and atrocities experienced by African Americans in the United States to the attention of the country.

In 1955, Till's murder was accused, and Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, J.W. Milam's half-brother, were put on trial. Donham claimed that Till had touched her waist and made lewd comments while at the local shop, she ran, and the all-white jury found both men not guilty.

Later, the men admitted to killing Till in a paid magazine interview. Milam died in 1981, while Bryant died in 1994.

Following the publishing of a book in which the author claimed Donham admitted to lying to him about Till making sexual approaches, the U.S. Justice Department ended its reopened investigation into Donham's involvement in the murder in 2021.

However, it acknowledged that there was "considerable doubt as to the credibility of her version of events." The department stated that it could not demonstrate that Donham had ever made that confession, Reuters reported.

A Mississippi grand jury declined to prosecute her for kidnapping or manslaughter in 2022. A 1955 arrest warrant for Donham on a charge of kidnapping Till was discovered a few weeks before the grand jury's verdict. This warrant had never been executed.

It is disappointing that no one has ever been held accountable, said Christopher Benson, a journalist, and attorney who co-wrote a book about Till's murder with the boy's mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in 2004 and continues to work with the family and others on the issue.

However, he stressed that it is vital that people keep trying to figure out what crime teaches us about racial injustice in the United States.

"The challenge to us in this contemporary moment is to step up and continue to derive meaning from this story in order to truly be engaged citizens and work for social justice," Benson said.

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