The U.S. Congress Has Just Now Made Lynching A Federal Crime
Umm, took long enough?
In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was beaten until unconscious, shot and thrown into the river with a noose made of barbed wire wrapped around his neck. The racist white Mississippians who committed the act were outraged when a white woman accused Till, visiting his family from Chicago, of flirting with her. It was a lethal allegation the woman admitted to lying about decades later.
Like what you're reading?
Get more in your inbox.
Till’s murder was by no means the first time the noose, or threat of lynching, terrorized Black American citizens. According to The Guardian via the Tuskegee Institute, 3,446 Black citizens died at the hands of U.S. lynch mobs between 1881 and 1968. However, the actual number of Black people who inhumanely and illegally perished at the end of a rope before, during and after that time frame can never be accurately counted due to legal subterfuge by local law enforcement backed by discriminatory policy.
In fact, a sign erected by The Emmett Till Memorial Commission had to be remade with bulletproof material in 2019 after it had been replaced four times because of repeated vandalism and white nationalists filming in front of it, as Blavity previously reported. It would appear that even if lynchings have decreased, the hatred that motivated those acts is alive and well.
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act was introduced by Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush and comes 120 years after Congress first considered anti-lynching legislation and after several similar efforts were defeated, according to NBC News. Congress has refused to pass anti-lynching legislation almost 200 times, starting with a bill introduced in 1900 by North Carolina Rep. George Henry White, the only Black member of Congress at the time.
Sixty-five years after Till’s killing, the bill was approved 410 to 4 on Wednesday in the House and will go to the White House where President Trump is expected to sign it. The act will classify lynching as a federal hate crime punishable by up to life in prison, a fine, or both.
“The importance of this bill cannot be overstated,'' said Rush, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “From Charlottesville to El Paso, we are still being confronted with the same violent racism and hatred that took the life of Emmett and so many others. The passage of this bill will send a strong and clear message to the nation that we will not tolerate this bigotry, " he elaborated.
Other Black congressmembers voiced their approval. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), who represents the district where Till was kidnapped and killed, called the bill overdue but necessary, nonetheless.
“No matter the length of time, it is never too late to ensure justice is served,” he said.
Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker applauded the House passage of the bill, which they co-sponsored in the Senate where it was passed unanimously.
“Lynchings were horrendous, racist acts of violence,” Harris said. "For far too long Congress has failed to take a moral stand and pass a bill to finally make lynching a federal crime. This justice is long overdue.”
Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Ted Yoho of Florida and Justin Amash of Michigan voted against the measure, according to NPR.