Sixty-five years ago, in 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally beaten and lynched in Mississippi, during a summer visit from Chicago, for allegedly whistling at a White woman. On February 26, Congress passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act (H.R. 35). The purpose of the bill is to make lynching a Federal crime so that we can “heal past and present racial injustice … so our Nation can begin reconciliation.”
Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who introduced the bill in January 2019, said in a statement, “Today, we send a strong message that violence—and race-based violence, in particular—has no place in America,” ABC News reported.
The bill lays out a loose historical timeline of lynchings in the country, stating that the Tuskegee Institute, which recorded lynchings from 1892, confirmed there were 3,445 Black victims that had been reported by 1968. With this new law, anyone who commits a lynching “shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined under this title, or both,” according to the bill.
Following the passage of the act, many members in Congress expressed why the bill is long overdue. “This form of terrorism was used to kill Black people and terrorize and terrify those into understanding they were not considered humans,” Representative Karen Bass, (D-Calif.), said at a press conference, according to ABC.
Below are more reactions, via social media:
We fully support the “Emmett Till Antilynching Act”. https://t.co/BeW5pMqESW— Emmett Till’s Memory Lives (@EmmeTillcenter) February 26, 2020
The fact that we are still trying to make lynching illegal at the federal law is telling of where we are in our country.— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) February 26, 2020
House passed legislation today to make lynching a federal crime.— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) February 27, 2020
Anti-lynching legislation first introduced in 1918.
It has taken more than 100 years to get to this point.
But justice delayed is not justice denied.
This one is for Emmett Till 💪🏽👊🏽✊🏾.https://t.co/AlMDpUSNMD
I’m thrilled the House just passed @RepBobbyRush’s Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act to explicitly criminalize lynching at the federal level. Lynchings were fueled by racism and represent a despicable chapter of our nation’s history.— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) February 26, 2020
We must pass this bill in the Senate. https://t.co/19p7naZYj9
For over 120 years, Congress has failed to outlaw lynching.— Doug Jones (@DougJones) February 27, 2020
I’ve had experience in dealing with hatred in AL & it’s ripped our souls apart for too long. I’m relieved to see the House has finally brought justice to #EmmettTill & 4,000+ other victims & outlaw lynching forever https://t.co/IphgXlDGBO