Emmett Till (pictured) a black 14-year-old was killed in Money, Mississippi, in 1955 after a white woman alleged he had grabbed her
More than 60 years after 14-year-old Emmett Till was savagely beaten to death in segregated Mississippi for ‘boasting of having a white girl’, his ‘girlfriend’ has finally spoken out.
J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant abducted the young black teen on August 28, 1955, and murdered him, after they say he whistled at Roy’s wife Carolyn in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi.
But journalist William Bradford Huie, who secured their confessions in an infamous Look magazine story in 1956, believes the motive went deeper.
Till’s murderers ‘killed him because he boasted of having a white girl and showed them the picture of a white girl in Chicago,’ Huie told filmmakers for the 1987 ‘Eyes on the Prize’ documentary.
The identity of that girl has remained a mystery for the past six decades, until now, USA Today reports.
The photo Till had shown was a picture of some of the white kids he had graduated elementary school from, and had pointed to the white girl in the picture who he referred to as his ‘girlfriend’, according to the documentary’s producer, Henry Hampton. In fact, she was his classmate.
‘That had to be me,’ said Joan Brody, who had been the only white girl in his class.
Brody recalls sitting next to the teen, who was a year older than her, in class.
‘He had beautiful eyes,’ she said, adding that they would sometimes goof around in class.
The final time she saw him was at their graduation, when they were joined by other students on stage for photos.
The next time she heard of Till, was after the brutal murder.
JW Milam, right, and Roy Bryant, left, were charged with Till’s murder but acquitted. Months later they admitted to the murder in a magazine interview
Till’s mutilated body was found three days after his death and had been so badly pistol-whipped that parts of his skull fell out but neither of his killers, who were both white, ever served time.
Bryant and his half-brother JW Milam – were charged with murder but acquitted in the slaying of Till, who had been staying with relatives in northern Mississippi at the time.
The men later confessed to the crime in a magazine interview, but weren’t retried. Both are now dead.
Bryant’s wife Carolyn testified at the time that Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances at a store in 1955.
With jurors out of the courtroom, she said a ‘n****r man’ she didn’t know took her by the arm.
‘Just what did he say when he grabbed your hand?’ defense attorney Sidney Carlton asked, according to a trial transcript released by the FBI a decade ago.
‘He said: ‘How about a date, baby?” she testified. Bryant said she pulled away, and moments later the young man ‘caught me at the cash register,’ grasping her around the waist with both hands and pulling her toward him.
Till’s accuser Carolyn Bryant, pictured in 1955, admitted that she lied about the encounter
‘He said: ‘What’s the matter baby, can’t you take it?” she testified. Bryant also said he told her ‘you don’t need to be afraid of me’, claiming that he used an obscenity and mentioned something he had done ‘with white women before’.
She later admitted that she wasn’t truthful in her testimony.
Brody dismissed the idea that Till would have been so aggressive with a woman, or that he would have claimed to have had sex with her.
‘He was a gentleman,’ she said, adding he would have blushed if the subject of sex ever arose.
‘He wasn’t a smart-alecky kid,’ she said. ‘He wasn’t a person to smart off to a white woman or any woman.’
Abducted from the home where he was staying, Till was beaten and shot, and his mutilated body was found weighted down with a cotton gin fan in the Tallahatchie River.
Images of his mutilated body in the casket gave witness to the depth of racial hatred in the Deep South and helped build momentum for subsequent civil rights campaigns.
They ran in several black publications but much of the mainstream media refused to show them.
Brody broke down in tears after she saw the images, calling the murders ‘worse than animals.’
Carolyn’s then-husband Roy Bryant, left, and his half-brother John W Milam, right, are shown in undated photos
Defendant Roy Bryant sits with his family at the Tallahatchie County Courthouse
‘He had his whole life ahead of him – to be gone just like that,’ she said. ‘And for what reason?’
‘He didn’t deserve it,’ she said. ‘Nobody deserves what they did to him.’
The federal government has reopened its investigation into the brutal slaying of black teenager Emmett Till, 63 years after the black teenager’s death in Mississippi.
The Justice Department told Congress in a report in March it is reinvestigating Till’s slaying in Money, Mississippi, in 1955 after receiving ‘new information’.
The case was closed in 2007 with authorities saying the suspects were dead; a state grand jury didn’t file any new charges.
Deborah Watts, a cousin of Till, said she was unaware the case had been reopened until contacted by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The federal report, sent annually to lawmakers under a law that bears Till’s name, does not indicate what the new information might be.
But it was issued in late March following the publication last year of ‘The Blood of Emmett Till,’ a book that says a key figure in the case acknowledged lying about events preceding the slaying of the 14-year-old youth from Chicago.