Senate passes anti-lynching bill : NPR


Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., speaks Feb. 26, 2020, about the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, which would designate lynching as a hate crime under federal law. Emmett Till, pictured right, was a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman at his family’s grocery store.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP


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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate passes anti-lynching bill : NPR

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., speaks Feb. 26, 2020, about the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, which would designate lynching as a hate crime under federal law. Emmett Till, pictured right, was a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman at his family’s grocery store.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Senate unanimously passed a bill on Monday that criminalizes lynching and makes it punishable by up to 30 years in prison. It made its way through the House of Representatives last month and President Biden is expected to sign it. While he passed through both houses of Congress this time with virtually no opposition, the path to passage took more than 100 years and 200 failed attempts.

Under the bill, named the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act in honor of the 14-year-old Chicago boy who was lynched while visiting family in Mississippi, a crime can be prosecuted as lynching when a hate crime results in death or injury, said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a longtime sponsor of the legislation.

“Lynching is a long-standing, uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has been used for decades to maintain the white hierarchy,” Rush said in a statement late Monday. “The Senate’s unanimous passage of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act sends a clear and emphatic message that our nation will no longer ignore this shameful chapter in our history and that the full force of the U.S. federal government will always be contribution against those who commit this heinous act.”

Unanimous consent in the Senate allows a bill to pass as long as no senator is present to oppose it. There was no roll call for the vote.

“Tonight the Senate passed my anti-lynching legislation, taking a necessary and long overdue step towards a more unified and fairer America,” Sen. Tim Scott (RS.C.) wrote on Twitter. “After working on this issue for years, I’m glad to have worked with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to finally make it happen.”

The other two co-sponsors of the Senate bill were Sen. Corey Booker (DN.J.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Paul opposed a similar bill passing the House in 2020. At the time, he said the measure was too broad.

On Monday night, he was happy with the wording of the bill, “which will ensure that federal law defines lynching as the absolutely heinous crime that it is,” he said.

The scale of the crime is staggering: The Equal Justice Initiative documented 4,081 lynchings in 12 southern states between 1877 and 1950. The report advocates the erection of monuments and memorials to the lynching to begin to “correct our distorted national narrative about this period of racial discrimination. terror in American history while directly addressing the wrongs suffered by the African-American community, especially survivors who lived through the era of lynching.”

Congress did not pass legislation for over a century. The first anti-lynching legislation was introduced in 1900 by Representative George Henry White of North Carolina – then the only black lawmaker in the body. His bill failed to make it out of committee. The Senate passed a resolution in 2005 expressing remorse for failing to pass anti-lynching legislation; but Congress never passed a bill from both houses until Monday. The effort to pass an anti-lynching bill gained momentum after the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

The passage of the bill marks a landmark achievement for Rush, who has represented a Chicago-area district since 1993. He announced in January that he would retire at the end of this Congress. Before politics, he was a lifelong civil rights activist.

On Monday, he said he was “looking forward to President Biden signing the Emmett Till anti-lynching bill very, very soon.”




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