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After Nearly 200 Attempts, Congress Makes Lynching a Federal Crime

65 years after the death of Emmett Till, 14
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 26, 2020 2:58 PM CST

(Newser) – Sixty-five years after 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi, the House has approved legislation designating lynching as a hate crime under federal law, the AP reports. The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, introduced by Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, comes 120 years after Congress first considered anti-lynching legislation and after dozens of similar efforts were defeated. The measure was approved 410 to 4 on Wednesday. The Senate unanimously passed virtually identical legislation last year, although that bill wasn't named for Till. President Trump is expected to sign the bill, which designates lynching as a federal hate crime punishable by up to life in prison, a fine, or both. One of the four who voted no, Republican Ted Yoho, tells CNN he did so because the bill represents "overreach" by the federal government, interfering with state's rights.

The other "no" votes came from Republicans Louie Gohmert and Thomas Massie and independent Justin Amash. Rush, a Democrat whose Chicago district includes Till's former home, said the bill will belatedly achieve justice for Till and more than 4,000 other lynching victims, most of them African Americans. Till, who was black, was brutally tortured and killed in 1955 after a white woman accused him of grabbing her and whistling at her in a Mississippi grocery store. The killing shocked the country and stoked the civil rights movement. Congress has failed to pass anti-lynching legislation nearly 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. "This justice is long overdue," said Sen. Kamala Harris, who along with Cory Booker and Tim Scott co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

(Read more lynching stories.)

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