IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

After 200 tries, Congress approves new anti-lynching legislation

Over the last several decades, there have been roughly 200 attempts to approve anti-lynching legislation. Each failed. This year, however, was different.


Over the last several decades, there have been roughly 200 attempts in Congress to approve anti-lynching legislation. Each failed.

In late 2018, the Senate finally passed a bipartisan measure, but the Republican-led House didn’t advance it before the end of the 115th Congress. Two years later, an anti-lynching bill came very close to passing, but Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky played a key role in derailing the effort.

Following up on our earlier coverage, this year, proponents believed the pieces were finally in place to get the bill across the finish line — and they were right. The Associated Press reported overnight that both chambers of Congress have now passed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act.

Congress gave final approval Monday to legislation that for the first time would make lynching a federal hate crime in the U.S. sending the bill to President Joe Biden to sign into law.... The bill would make it possible to prosecute a crime as a lynching when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious bodily injury, according to the bill’s champion, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. The maximum sentence under the Anti-Lynching Act is 30 years.

“The first anti-lynching legislation was introduced a century ago, and after so long, the Senate has now finally addressed one of the most shameful elements of this nation’s past by making lynching a federal crime,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor last night. “That it took so long is a stain — a bitter stain — on America.

“While this will not erase the horrific injustices to which tens of thousands of African Americans have been subjected over the generations — nor fully heal the terror inflicted on countless others — it is an important step forward as we continue the work of confronting our nation’s past in pursuit of a brighter and more just future.”

The Senate approved by the bill by unanimous consent. A week earlier, the House passed the same bill, 422 to 3.

The fact that the final outcome was so lopsided makes the three House Republicans who voted against the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act — Georgia’s Andrew Clyde, Kentucky’s Thomas Massie, and Texas’ Chip Roy — look just a little worse.

Nevertheless, President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law later this week. It’s the latest in a series of popular measures to clear Congress with bipartisan support.

As for the historical context, a Washington Post report recently added, “The House’s earliest attempt to pass anti-lynching legislation came in 1900, when Rep. George Henry White (R-N.C.), then the country’s only Black member of Congress, stood on the floor of the House and read the text of his unprecedented measure, which would have prosecuted lynchings at the federal level. The bill later died in committee.”

This year’s progress, in other words, is a long time coming.