Historic bill codifies lynching as a federal crime after 200 attempts since 1900
(Baltimore, MD) On February 28, by a vote of 422-3, the United States House of Representatives approved H.R. 55, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act sponsored by Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), that for the first time would designate lynching as a federal hate crime. Voting "no" against the bill were Republican Representatives Andrew S. Clyde (GA), Thomas Massie (KY) and Chip Roy (TX). There had been more than 200 unsuccessful attempts since 1900 to codify antilynching legislation. According to a report from the Equal Justice Initiative, more than 6,500 Americans were lynched between 1865 and 1950.
The legislation honors the life and memory of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy who was brutally lynched in 1955 during a visit to Mississippi. Till's death was a turning point for the civil rights movement.
Representative Rush had this to say about the historic legislation.
"I was eight years old when my mother put the photograph of Emmett Till's brutalized body that ran in Jet magazine on our living room coffee table, pointed to it, and said, 'this is why I brought my boys out of Albany, Georgia.' That photograph shaped my consciousness as a Black man in America, changed the course of my life, and changed our nation. But modern-day -more- lynching like the murder of Ahmaud Arbery make abundantly clear that the racist hatred and terror that fueled the lynching of Emmett Till lynching are far too prevalent in America to this day."
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act was first introduced by Representative Rush in the 115th Congress. The bill was passed in the House with bipartisan support in the 116th Congress but was blocked in the Senate.
Under the bill, a crime can be prosecuted when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious injury. The maximum sentence for a perpetrator convicted under this Act is 30 years, and the Act applies to a broad range of circumstances. On the same day, the legislation passed in the House, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced companion legislation in the Senate to make lynching a federal crime. The two senators had previously sponsored a bill with then-Senator Kamala Harris in 2018. The bill was previously held up in the Senate by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
Representative Rush is also the lead sponsor of bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2252, to award the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously to Emmet Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, as well as a bill, H.R. 4581, directing the United States Postmaster General to issue a commemorative stamp in honor of Mamie Till-Mobley.