With a 422-3 vote, the House passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on Monday, a bill that classifies lynching as a federal hate crime, USA Today reports. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), perpetrators can now be prosecuted if someone is killed or injured due to lynching.
“By passing my Emmett Till Antilynching Act, the House has sent a resounding message that our nation is finally reckoning with one of the darkest and most horrific periods of our history, and that we are morally and legally committed to changing course,” Rush said in a statement, according to USA Today.
Congress has tried to pass federal anti-lynching legislation more than 200 times since 1900, according to Rush. The Senate blocked an earlier version of the bill that passed the House in 2020.
About 4,400 Black people in the U.S. were lynched from 1877 to 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.
Emmett Till was killed in Mississippi in 1955 at age 14. The boy from Chicago was visiting his family when two white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, allegedly kidnapped him before severely beating him and shooting him in the head. The white men are accused of then dumping the teen’s body in the Tallahatchie River.
Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, is still widely praised for having the courage to have an open-casket funeral for her son.
“By passing this bill today, the House of Representatives has sent a clear message that such violent actions — motivated by hatred and bigotry — will not be tolerated in this country,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a statement, according to USA Today. “I thank Congressman Rush for his leadership on this important issue and for his attention to history. The Senate should take up this legislation and send it to President Biden’s desk without delay.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), one of the three Republicans who voted against the legislation, said lynching is a “heinous crime” but it raises penalties for existing crimes, “including those that are unrelated to lynching — such as gender identity — in an effort to advance a woke agenda under the guise of correcting racial injustice.”
Republican Reps. Andrew Clyde and Thomas Massie are the other two Republicans who voted against the legislation.