Emmett Till Murder

Emmett Till Murder Update: What Happened To Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam?

Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were the white supremacists who murdered black teenager Emmett Till in 1955. Both of them later died due to health reasons.

Emmett Till was an African-American boy who was abducted, tortured and lynched in Mississippi in 1955.

The 14-year-old was killed after being accused of offending a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, in her family’s grocery store.

The brutal nature of his murder and the fact that his killers were cleared drew attention to the long history of violent racism in the U.S. Emmett posthumously became a civil rights movement icon in the States.

Emmet’s life and incident have been captured by several books, songs, documentaries, television series, and films, including Till, released on October 24, 2022.

Emmett Till Murder Update: What Happened To Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam?

J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant are both not in this world. Milam died of Bone Cancer in 1981, whereas Bryant also died of Cancer in 1994. No one ever faced punishment for the horrific murder of Emmet Till. 

Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were the two white men who killed Emmett Till for allegedly harassing Carolyn Bryant. They were arrested in August 1955, but the all-white, all-male jury acquitted both of all charges.

Emmett Till killers
File photos of John W. Milam, 35, his half-brother Roy Bryant, 24, and wife Carolyn. (Source: Mississippi Today)

The duo later publicly admitted their guilt, saying they wanted to warn other blacks. They also sold their story for $4,000 and initially talked freely about how they killed the young man.

Roy Bryant, a trucker and an ex-soldier, was the husband of Carolyn Bryant. The couple ran a small grocery called Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market, selling provisions to black sharecroppers and their kids. Roy and Carolyn had two sons and lived in two small rooms at the back of the store.

J.W. Milam was Roy’s half-brother, who did the trucking job with him. He was an imposing man of six feet two inches, weighing 235 pounds. He prided himself on knowing how to “handle” blacks.

What Happened To Emmet Till?

During the summer vacation in August 1955, Emmett Till, 14, visited relatives near Money, Mississippi. He spoke to a 21-year-old white female named Carolyn Bryant in her family grocery store.

What happened inside is disputable, but the boy was accused of misbehaving with Carolyn – flirting, touching, or whistling at her. A few nights later, Carolyn’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, went to Emmet’s House armed and abducted him.

The two took the boy away, beat and mutilated him, and then shot him in the head before sinking his body in the Tallahatchie River. The boy’s body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later.

Emmet’s mother, Mamie, insisted on a public open-casket funeral service that exposed the world to her son’s bloated, mutilated body. 

Emmett Till funeral
Emmett Till’s mother during his funeral. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

She wanted the world to see the racism, the barbarism of the murder, and the limitations and vulnerabilities of American democracy.

The murder of Emmett Till was seen as a catalyst for the next phase of the civil rights movement. President Joe Biden recently signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on March 29, 2022; it is an American law that makes lynching a federal hate crime.

Who Was Emmett Louis Till?

Emmett Louis Till was a 14-year-old boy who went to Mccosh Elementary School. He was born and raised in Chicago. 

Emmett was born on July 25, 1941, as the only son of Mamie Carthan (1921–2003) and Louis Till (1922–1945).

His parents separated after incidents of cheating and violence from Louis’ side. Emmett was a toddler then, and his mother and grandmother raised the boy.

Emmett Till family
Emmett Till with his mother Mamie Till. (Source: NMAAHC)

Mamie was from the small Delta town of Webb, Mississippi. Her family moved to Argo, Illinois, near Chicago, when she was two as a part of the Great Migration of rural black families to the North to avoid violence, unequal treatment, and lack of opportunity under the law. 

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