In October, 1955, the U.S. Army released information on how Emmett Till's father died. (This was something Mamie Bradley had never been able to learn.) Private Louis Till was executed in Italy, in 1945, for raping and murdering a white woman.
Emmett's murderers, who were acquitted amidst a national cry of outrage, may have felt vindicated somehow, by this new development. (Historian Clenora Hudson says some Southern whites saw Emmett himself as a potential rapist.) At any rate it was at this time that Roy Bryant and John William Milam decided to talk to reporters. (They were immune from further prosecution.) What emerged was a tragic portrait of racism.The two WWII veterans were fighting an older war. They seemed to be motivated, in part, by a feeling that Northern whites were out to humilate them - as they did after the Civil War.
"Look" magazine printed their side of the story, in January, 1956. It was an admission of calculated murder:
To have done nothing would have marked him as a coward and a fool, Bryant believed . . .
Milam said, "We never were able to scare him. They had just filled him so full of that poison he was hopeless . . . Well what else could we do? . . . I'm no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers - in their place . . .
But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain't gonna vote where I live. If they did they'd control the government. They ain't gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger even gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he's tired of living . . .
I just made up my mind. `Chicago boy,' I said, `I'm tired of them sending your kind down here to stir up trouble."'
The defense attorneys implied that Emmett's father's ring was planted on the body - part of a plot by outsiders to destroy the way of life of Southern people.
The author of the article, William Bradford Huie, himself a Southerner, concluded: The majority - by no means ALL, but the majority of the white people in Mississippi (1) either approve Milam's action or, (2) they don't disapprove enough to risk giving their "enemies" the satisfaction of a conviction.
A "Reader's Digest" condensation of the "Look" story in April, 1956 included a chart headed by this statement:
Despite the shocking impact of the Emmett Till case, it should be remembered that the number of lynchings of Negroes in the United States has decreased impressively during the past 25 years.