It took until 2022, but the United States finally has recognized lynching as a hate crime. There have been 200 bills attempting to make such designation, the first introduced by Rep. George Henry White of North Carolina in 1900. Congress most recently took up the task in 2020, but the Senate measure was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Rep. Meanwhile, Bobby Rush, D-Ill, who announced his retirement recently, has been determined to get this legislation through.
According to the Associated Press, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is now set to become law. The House voted 422-3 to approve the bill—Republican Reps. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Chip Roy of Texas were the only representatives to vote no. The act was then passed in the Senate with unanimous consent. It awaits a signature from President Biden to become law.
Rep. Rush spoke about the landmark legislation that will surely be a crowning achievement for his legacy.
“After more than 200 failed attempts to outlaw lynching, Congress is finally succeeding in taking a long overdue action by passing the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The bill would make it possible to prosecute a crime as a lynching when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious bodily injury. The maximum sentence under the Anti-Lynching Act is 30 years.
Rush also spoke about the history of lynching and what message this bill will send.
“Lynching is a longstanding and uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has for decades been used to maintain the white hierarchy,” Rush said in a statement Monday evening. “Unanimous Senate passage of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act sends a clear and emphatic message that our nation will no longer ignore this shameful chapter of our history and that the full force of the U.S. federal government will always be brought to bear against those who commit this heinous act.”
According to the NAACP, there have been 4,734 lynchings in the United States from 1882 to 1968. A report by the Equal Justice Initiative has accounted for an additional 2,000 white supremacist massacres and killings of Black men, women and children during Reconstruction. The last recording account of lynching in America was as recent as 1981.