By the Way

Why Emmett Till is trending (again) on Twitter

Carolyn Bryant rests her head on the shoulder of her husband, Roy Bryant, after she testified in the Emmett Till murder case in Sumner, Miss., on Sept. 22, 1955. Roy Bryant was accused of killing the 14-year-old Chicago native, who was black, for ‘wolf-whistling’ at his wife.
Carolyn Bryant rests her head on the shoulder of her husband, Roy Bryant, after she testified in the Emmett Till murder case in Sumner, Miss., on Sept. 22, 1955. Roy Bryant was accused of killing the 14-year-old Chicago native, who was black, for ‘wolf-whistling’ at his wife. ASSOCIATED PRESS

She lied.

For the first time, the woman who testified she was “scared to death” after Emmett Till grabbed and threatened her has admitted she made it up.

“That part’s not true,” she told Timothy Tyson, author of the soon-to-be-published book “The Blood of Emmett Till.”

The admission is detailed in a new Vanity Fair article on the book, prompting a renewed conversation on social media about the heinous 1950s hate crime in the Mississippi Delta.

The story has struck a chord on Twitter in particular, where the black community — known collectively as Black Twitter — engages in meaningful conversations on race, current events and pop culture.

Unsurprisingly, much of the reaction includes expressions of how little sympathy people have for Carolyn Bryant.

Tyson said the “case went a long way toward ruining her life,” though the clear winner of the ruined life contest is the guy who was not only murdered at age 14, but so horrifically disfigured that his published autopsy photo “helped propel the American civil rights movement.”

Many tweets express hurt and outrage anew at the crime itself, at the way it has taken more than 60 years to expose the truth and at the sympathetic portrayal of Bryant.

It’s also not the first time Emmett Till has been a trending topic recently. Just three months ago, pictures of the bullet hole-riddled sign marking the place where Till’s body was found was trending on Facebook and Twitter.

But news of Bryant’s confession also comes after a weekend when the Women’s March on Washington sparked discussion about white women’s lack of solidarity with women of color, when they have historically benefited from white men holding positions of power. One of the more viral images from the march was a black woman, Angela Peoples, surrounded mostly by white women and holding a sign that read “Don’t forget: White women voted for Trump.”

Many Emmett Till tweets are outraged that a white woman’s lie led to the brutal murder of a black teenager. It speaks to a long-standing frustration at the words of a white person being perceived as more credible than those of a black person — whether that perception is subconscious or not.

At a time when some Americans are somehow still debating whether racism is still a thing, it’s stories like this that make it clear old wounds don’t heal just because they’re old.

Lauren Walck: 228-896-2393, @laurenwalck

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