By Isaiah Peters
The long-overdue Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act needs only President Joe Biden’s signature to become law. The bill designates that those convicted of a hate crime may receive sentences of up to 30 years in prison.
“It took so long, it is a stain, a bitter stain on America,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The bill found renewed congressional attention following the outcry surrounding the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
Last week, the bill passed the House of Representatives with a 422-3 vote. The three Republicans who opposed the bill condemning lynching were Reps. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Chip Roy of Texas.
According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 4,743 lynchings occurred between 1882 to 1968, the most occurring in Mississippi. Many regard the murder of Trayvon Marton in 2012, which sparked the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S., and the murders of African Americans by other vigilantes in recent years, including Ahmaud Arbery in 2020, as modern day lynchings. Arbery’s murderers, three white vigilantes who hunted and harrased him before murdering him in Georgia, were found guilty of federal hate crimes, and attempted kidnapping last month after they were convicted of murder on November 24, 2022.
The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is in tribute to the 14-year-old boy brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955 by two white men without either man facing conviction despite admitting to his murder.
“Lynching is a longstanding and uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has for decades been used to maintain the white hierarchy,” said Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., a longtime sponsor of the legislation.
In 2005, the Senate formally apologized for its failure to act on the issue, including when Southern senators blocked similar legislation during the Jim Crow era.
“After more than 200 failed attempts to outlaw lynching, Congress is finally succeeding in taking the long-overdue action by passing the Act. Hallelujah. It’s long overdue,” Schumer said.
Despite Sen. Rand Paul’s, (R-Kentucky) objection to a similar bill that passed the House in 2020 for being what he considered ‘too broad,’ in a rare case of bipartisanship, he co-sponsored the Senate bill alongside Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey).
“Although no legislation will reverse the pain and fear felt by those victims, their loved ones and Black communities, this legislation is a necessary step America must take to heal from the racialized violence that has permeated its history,” Rep. Booker said.