Lynching is now classified as a federal hate crime after the House of Representatives passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on Monday (Feb. 28).
According to reports from CNN and other outlets, the bill passed by a 422-3 vote with three Republicans — Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie and Texas Rep. Chip Roy — voting against it.
“Our nation endured a shameful period during which thousands of African Americans were lynched as a means of racial subordination and enforcing white supremacy,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said Monday. “These violent incidents were largely tolerated by state and federal officials and they represent a stain on our nation’s legacy.”
“Today, we acknowledge this disgraceful chapter in American history and we send a clear message that such violent actions — motivated by hatred and bigotry — will not be tolerated in this country,” he added.
Federal anti-lynching legislation was first introduced by then-Rep. George Henry White, the only Black member of Congress at the time, in 1900.
Rep. Bobby Rush authored the current bill and named it after Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old from Chicago who was lynched by white men in Mississippi in 1955. The legislation declares lynching a federal hate crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
“Today is a day of enormous consequence for our nation,” Rush said. “By passing my Emmett Till Antilynching Act, the House has sent a resounding message that our nation is finally reckoning with one of the darkest and most horrific periods of our history and that we are morally and legally committed to changing course.”
According to the NAACP; there were over 4,700 lynchings in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968, the majority of which occurred in Mississippi, where Till was killed.
“Hopefully people will think twice before they go out and commit a crime against a different person because of their race or gender or lifestyle,” Ollie Gordon, Till’s cousin who lived in the same house that Till was abducted from, told ABC 7 after the bill passed.
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