Policy Summary
On January 3, 2019 Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives H.R. 35, known as the Emmett Till Anti – Lynching Act. The bill proposes to modify the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and other relevant civil rights sections by including the act of lynching as a punishable federal crime for the first time. The bill permits a term of imprisonment to be extended to a full ten years if the term of imprisonment imposed is less than ten years. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which recommended on October 31, 2019 that the bill be passed. On February 26, 2020 the full House chamber voted on the bill and the bill passed by a vote of 410 to 4. The bill is now before the U.S. Senate and is scheduled for a likely conference committee meeting to iron out differences with a similar anti – lynching bill that the U.S. Senate passed in 2019. LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis
The history of lynching in the United States is one of the darkest chapters in this nation’s history. The term came to be associated with the vigilante act of “punishment without trial” and took root in the United States South as a way to terrorize and intimidate African – Americans from participating in American civic and social life. In general terms, whites who became outraged at a perceived insult or some misconceived act of disrespect often kidnapped one or more African – Americans, killed the persons and then hung the people from a tree where pictures were taken with smiling white people. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1882 to 1968 there were 4,743 lynchings in the United States. 3,446 of those people were African – American and occurred in all U.S. states except four although most occurred in the U.S. South.

Efforts to try and pass a law to make lynching a federal crime have been ongoing for more than one hundred years. The first known anti – lynching bill was introduced in Congress in 1900 by the lone black Congressman at the time, George Henry White of North Carolina. That did not succeed but numerous bills continued to be brought through the decades with nearly 200 separate attempts through the years. But most bills, even if they were successful in the House, would be filibustered and blocked by Southern senators who said it was a state’s rights issue. As a result every attempt failed and lynchings continued nearly unabated in the Southern states.

A century after Congressman White’s initial federal anti – lynching bill, acknowledgment of the horrific crimes and the Senate’s refusal to do anything helped renew interest in the topic. In 2005 the Senate put forth a formal apology for obstructing attempts to pass an anti – lynching law for the last one hundred years. And now with the passage of H.R. 35 it seems that a federal law outlawing lynching looks likely to pass and become law. Since the Senate had passed a slightly different version in 2019, the two chambers have set up a conference committee to align both versions so that the final version of the bill that is approved is the one that was approved by both houses of Congress. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has expressed support for the bill as well as President Donald Trump who has pledged to sign the bill whenever a bill is presented to him for his signature. Some say the bill is merely a symbolic measure but the text of the bill indicates that this bill is necessary now as an act of national contrition and as an attempt to try and curb the rise of racist and white nationalist rhetoric that has been on the upswing in America in recent years. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

Photo by John Mark Arnold

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