It took sixty-five years following the death of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi, but on Wednesday, Congress approved legislation that would make lynching a hate crime under federal law. The bill also comes 120 years after Congress initially considered anti-lynching legislation. The Senate unanimously passed the legislation last year.
Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, whose Chicago district includes Till’s former home, introduced the bill named after the teen who was brutally killed in 1955 after a white woman accused him of both grabbing and whistling at her. His murder played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement. The bill was approved 410 to 4 on Wednesday in the House. The bill is now headed to the White House, where Donald Trump is expected to sign it. Under this new designation, lynching will now be classified as a federal hate crime punishable by up to life in prison in prison.
“The importance of this bill cannot be overstated. 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 passage of this bill will send a strong and clear message to the nation that we will not tolerate this bigotry,” Rush said.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who represents the area where Till was abducted and murdered, called the anti-lynching bill long overdue, but remained grateful.
“No matter the length of time, it is never too late to ensure justice is served.”
Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, referred to lynching a lasting legacy of slavery.
“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,” she said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. was also happy to see that the bill passed, despite the decades.