Emmett Till

After listening to more than seven hours of testimony from investigators and witnesses last week to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter of Emmett Till, the grand jury declined to indict her.

Seven hours may be the time given to the grand jury, but the Till family and African Americans have been waiting much longer for a verdict they knew would be a disappointment, knew would not be one that would set the record straight and bring at least a modicum of justice.

Insufficient evidence they decided are just recent words we hear from Leflore County, Mississippi where the grand jury was seated, but they toll endlessly across the ages here in America, and it’s sad to relate that we have not heard the last sobs of disgust and outrage.

The Rev. Wheeler Parker, Till’s first cousin who was with Emmett that afternoon when they ventured into the Bryant’s grocery store in Money in 1955, told the press that the outcome was “unfortunate, but predictable.”

Unfortunate and predictable are two words inextricably joined and how many times have they echoed from Black Americans waiting helplessly and hopelessly for a different ending.

There was a glimmer of possibly getting Mrs. Donham before the bar of justice a few weeks ago when a warrant was found for her arrest that had never been served. But the family and activists knew that was a long shot since most of the witnesses alive when the brutal murder occurred were long gone.

Long gone, too, is that she, at 87, will ever be tried, convicted and imprisoned for her role in Till’s death. 

“The prosecutor tried his best, and we appreciate his efforts, but he alone cannot undo hundreds of years of anti-Black systems that guaranteed those who killed Emmett Till would go unpunished, to this day,” said Rev. Parker.

“Hundreds of years of anti-Black systems,” he said, and even undoing just a few of those years remains impossible, and all we can do is be like that tree planted by the waters and stay unmoved, and relentless in our demand for justice.

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