The bill was named after a 14-year-old black boy, Emmett Till, who was lynched over 65 years ago.
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.
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.
"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.
Lynching is a stain on American history. That's why I was so proud to have steered the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act through @HouseJudiciary and to the House floor, where it passed almost unanimously. Thank you to @RepBobbyRush @RepKarenBass @LeaderHoyer @SenBooker @KamalaHarris pic.twitter.com/BhgBfJoYpP— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) February 26, 2020
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.''
4 House members voting No on Emmett Till Antilynching Act:— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) February 26, 2020
“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.