House Passes Law Making Lynching a Federal Hate Crime
After 120 years and nearly 200 failed efforts, the U.S. House of Representatives finally passed a bill Wednesday making lynching a federal hate crime.
The vote was 210 to 4. The Senate unanimously passed similar legislation last year. It now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.
A number of House members took to the floor before the vote to point out how long overdue the law is, but saying it is never too late to do the right thing.
White mobs used lynching to terrorize African-Americans from the 1800s to well into the 20th century. In some towns, whites would treat lynchings as a family outing and social gathering. People young and old would sometimes pose next to the victim hanging from a tree.
The anti-lynching law was named for Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African American from Chicago who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 1955 by two white men who accused him of whistling at a white woman in a Mississippi grocery store.
Till’s coffin was left open at his funeral because his mother said she wanted the world to see what racism looks like.
A number of black newspapers and magazines printed pictures of Till’s horribly distorted and mutilated corpse, sickening nearly everyone who saw it and adding fuel to the civil rights movement.
An all-white jury acquitted the two suspects of the murder. Both later confessed before they died.
The first anti-lynching bill was brought before Congress in 1901. Nearly 200 other bills that would make it a federal crime failed to pass.
Four lawmakers — three Republicans and one independent — voted against the bill Wednesday.
They include Texas Republican Louis Gohmert who said he believes such a crime should be prosecuted by the states, including Texas where Gohmert said, lynching someone would mean the death penalty.