Justice sought by protestors after Emmett Till accuser found in Bowling Green

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Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

Priscilla Sterling (white tee-shirt) cousin of Emmett Till—a 14-year-old black boy who was abducted, beaten and killed in Mississippi in 1955—speaks at a protest on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 3, 2022 at the Warren County Justice Center on Center Street in downtown Bowling Green, Ky. Sterling, and a group of others, decided to protest after it came to light that the Carolyn Bryant, who’d caused Till to be murdered after she accused him of flirting with her, was living in Bowling Green, now in her late eighties.

Jake Moore, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Priscilla Sterling faced the crowd outside the Warren County Justice Center, the face of Emmett Till, her cousin, displayed on her shirt.

“I came all the way from Jackson, Mississippi to be here, to be a part of this,” Sterling said.

Sterling, along with a group of protestors, came to Bowling Green Saturday to demand justice for Till, who was lynched in 1955. 

The protest came about after it was discovered that Carolyn Bryant Donham, Till’s accuser, was living in Bowling Green. According to the Daily Mail, Donham, now 88, is in hospice care.

Donham re-entered the public eye this year after an unserved warrant for her connection to Till’s death, dated to 1955, was discovered in a Mississippi courthouse basement, according to CBS.

Priscilla Sterling (white tee-shirt) cousin of Emmett Till—a 14-year-old black boy who was abducted, beaten and killed in Mississippi in 1955—speaks at a protest on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 3, 2022 at the Warren County Justice Center on Center Street in downtown Bowling Green, Ky. Sterling, and a group of others, decided to protest after it came to light that the Carolyn Bryant, who’d caused Till to be murdered after she accused him of flirting with her, was living in Bowling Green, now in her late eighties. (Arthur H. Trickett-Wile)

“We still want Carolyn Bryant brought to justice,” Sterling said. “We want a trial […] the law should be applied to her too.”

Donham, working in a store in Money, Mississippi in 1955, accused then 14-year-old Till of wolf-whistling at her during his trip to the store. Till, a Black child, was visiting from Chicago.

Days later, Donham’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and half-brother, J.W. Milam abducted Till at gunpoint before beating him, gouging one of his eyes out, shooting him in the head and depositing his corpse in the Tallahatchie River where it was discovered soon after.

Priscilla Sterling (white tee-shirt) cousin of Emmett Till—a 14-year-old black boy who was abducted, beaten and killed in Mississippi in 1955—speaks at a protest on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 3, 2022 at the Warren County Justice Center on Center Street in downtown Bowling Green, Ky. Sterling, and a group of others, decided to protest after it came to light that the Carolyn Bryant, who’d caused Till to be murdered after she accused him of flirting with her, was living in Bowling Green, now in her late eighties. (Arthur H. Trickett-Wile)

“Even if he did whistle at a white woman, that’s not a reason to lynch a 14-year-old child,” Mmoja Ajabu, a member of the Veterans Association of African Descendants group, said.

Bryant and Milam were arrested and charged for the lynching, but both men were acquitted by an all-white and all-male jury. The pair later admitted to killing Till in an interview and both men have since passed away.

“We are here in the court of public opinion – we’re also going to have a presence in the court of legal opinion,” Ajuba said. “This week we plan to file a suit in federal court in Mississippi that says if the warrant on Carolyn Bryant is not served, the justice system should not serve anyone because that would be a violation of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution that guarantees equal protection under the law.”

Bowling Green Police sent out an alert Saturday morning regarding a shooting threat the department had received. According to the alert, the threat was directed at groups who intended on protesting in front of the Justice Center and at Donham’s Shive Lane apartment.

Following this, multiple events were called off including the Kentucky Museum’s “Christmas in KY,” the Mistletoe Market at SOKY Marketplace and the annual Christmas parade. 

“You got the alerts just like we got the alerts. ‘People who came down to the justice center would be shot,” Ajuba said. “We appreciate the police. But the responsibility of our safety is ours. So yes, we’re armed; not because we came here to shoot nobody, not because we came here to hurt anybody, but we do understand – as a Vietnam veteran – when there is a threat you’ve got to neutralize the threat.”

Priscilla Sterling (white tee-shirt) cousin of Emmett Till—a 14-year-old black boy who was abducted, beaten and killed in Mississippi in 1955—speaks at a protest on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 3, 2022 at the Warren County Justice Center on Center Street in downtown Bowling Green, Ky. Sterling, and a group of others, decided to protest after it came to light that the Carolyn Bryant, who’d caused Till to be murdered after she accused him of flirting with her, was living in Bowling Green, now in her late eighties. (Arthur H. Trickett-Wile)

Ajuba said the group came to let the people of Bowling Green know that the city is “harboring” Donham.

“Not that you invited her, not that you’ve got the legal authority to go and arrest her, but you should know that you are harboring a woman that took part in the lynching of a 14-year-old child just because he supposedly whistled at a white woman,” Ajuba said.

Protestors then moved on to Donham’s residence.

Co-Editor-in-Chief Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.