Durham author talks about uncovering new twist in Emmett Till story

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s the murder case that captivated the nation and helped to launch the Civil Rights movement.

A 14-year-old black boy was brutally beaten and killed for whistling at a white woman 60 years ago.

Now there’s a new chapter in the Emmett Till story.

CBS North Carolina sat down with the author of a new book that reveals startling details about the case.

The book is called “The Blood of Emmett Till.” Author Timothy Tyson has spent nearly a decade working on it.

Till, a black teenager from Chicago, was in a town called Money, Mississippi. There, he went inside a store to buy gum. A woman there claimed Till made advances and whistled at her.

While working on the book, Tyson received a call from a fan inviting him to lunch.

“I was just as warm and polite, like mama said, but I got off the phone. As I’m hanging up, she said, ‘You may know about my mother-in-law. Her name was Carolyn Bryant,’” he recalled.

Tyson knew that name.

Carolyn Bryant was the woman who had said Till made advances. Two white men admitted they abducted Till three days later and savagely beat and shot him. An all-white jury acquitted them of the crime.

But when she sat down with Tyson, she told a different story, he said.

“Just before she started spilling the beans, she kind of muttered, ‘Well they’re all dead now anyway,’ I think meaning family and people who would be mad at her for talking about this in public,” he said.

And then she told him she had lied.

Tyson recalls Carolyn saying she felt disrespected when she and the 14-year-old crossed paths.

“I think she used the word ‘insulted’ her. Which I take to mean he violated her racial sensibility, racial etiquette of Mississippi in 1955,” he said.

Despite the attention, Timothy said the book is not about the story of Carolyn. Instead, he said, it’s about how African-Americans and progressive white allies came together to build a Civil Rights movement.

“It’s a struggle that continues, and I think the story of Emmett Till speaks to that struggle, not just in a story of horror, but also in a voice of hope,” he said.

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