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Congress passes historic anti-lynching bill after more than 200 attempts in the last century

The bill was named after a 14-year-old black boy, Emmett Till, who was lynched over 65 years ago.

Congress passes historic anti-lynching bill after more than 200 attempts in the last century
Image Source: MONTGOMERY, AL - APRIL 26: Veric Lang, 19, visits the National Memorial For Peace And Justice on April 26, 2018, in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Bob Miller/Getty Images)

Sixty-five years after teenager Emmett Till was lynched, Congress has passed a bill designating lynching as a hate crime under federal law. The bill has been almost 120 years in the making with the Congress first considering an anti-lynching bill back then. The bill was met with considerable opposition the past 200 times it was presented but this time the bill got overwhelming support. The bill was approved 410-4 on Wednesday by the lower house of Congress and could see perpetrators punishable by up to life in prison, a fine, or both, reported NBC News. The bill had passed unanimously in the Senate last year. Illinois Representative and Democrat Bobby Rush introduced the bill in congress and named it after 14-year-old Till, a black Chicago boy who was tortured and lynched in 1955. He was accused of whistling and grabbing at a white woman in Mississippi grocery store. Till''s brutal murder spurred the civil rights movement. 


“The crime of lynching succeeded slavery as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States following Reconstruction,” noted the bill. It will now be presented to the President for approval. Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill. Bobby Rush said the bill was to honor the 14-year-old victim and a form of belated justice for Till and the other lynching victims.

ALSIP, IL - MAY 4: A photo of Emmett Till is included on the plaque that marks his gravesite at Burr Oak Cemetery May 4, 2005 in Aslip, Illinois. The FBI is considering exhuming the body of Till, whose unsolved 1955 murder in Money, Mississippi, after whistling at a white woman helped spark the U.S. civil rights movement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Over 4,000 people have been lynched between 1882 and 1968 with a majority of them being African Americans. “The importance of this bill cannot be overstated,'' said Rush. ”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 bill was first introduced in 1900 by North Carolina Rep. George Henry White, the only black member in Congress. 

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 30: U. S. Congressman Bobby Rush (C) voices support for former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris (R) after Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (L) introduced him as his choice to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama during a press conference at the Thompson Center December 30, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Blagojevich, who is serving his second term as Illinois Governor, was taken into federal custody December 9 to face corruption charges including trying to sell Obama's Senate seat. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

"The passing of this bill will send a strong and clear message to the nation that we will not tolerate this bigotry." The bill was also co-sponsored by Democratic Senators and former 2020 Presidential candidates Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey. “Lynchings were horrendous, racist acts of violence. 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,” Harris said in a statement. Cory Booker labeled lynching as “a pernicious tool of racialized violence, terror and oppression.” He added that there was no way Congress could wash away the stain of lynching on our nation but "we can ensure that we as a country make clear that lynching will not be tolerated,” said Booker. 


Bennie Thompson, a Democrat who represents the area Till was murdered said, "No matter the length of time, it is never too late to ensure justice is served." House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer echoed similar words after the bill was passed. "It is never too late to do the right thing and address these gruesome, racially motivated acts of terror that have plagued our nation’s history," said Hoyer. He called on other lawmakers to "renew our commitment to confronting racism and hate.'' 


“Make no mistake, lynching is terrorism. While this reign of terror has faded, the most recent lynching (in the United States) happened less than 25 years ago," said Democratic Representative Karen Bass of California, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the bill "marks a milestone in the long and protracted battle against white supremacy and racial violence in our country." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also praised the move and said it was also an acknowledgment of the racism in America. “We cannot deny that racism, bigotry, and hate still exist in America,” said Nancy Pelosi referring to the 2017 neo-nazi nationalist rally in Charlottesville, among other recent incidents.

MONTGOMERY, AL - APRIL 26: Ed Sykes (center), 77, visits the National Memorial For Peace And Justice on April 26, 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. Sykes, who has family in Mississippi, was distraught when he discovered his last name in the memorial, three months after finding it on separate memorial in Clay County, Mississippi. "This is the second time I've seen the name Sykes as a hanging victim. What can I say?" Sykes, who now lives in San Francisco, plans to investigate the lynching of a possible relative at the Equal Justice Initiative headquarters in Montgomery before returning to California. The memorial is dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people and those terrorized by lynching and Jim Crow segregation in America. Conceived by the Equal Justice Initiative, the physical environment is intended to foster reflection on America's history of racial inequality. (Photo by Bob Miller/Getty Images)

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