Congress Gives Final Approval to Make Lynching a Hate Crime

WASHINGTON — The Senate unanimously approved a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime, explicitly criminalizing a heinous act that has become a symbol of the nation’s history of racial violence.

It was a remarkable moment after more than a century of failed attempts. The historic bill carries the name of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955. Under the measure, the crime is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.


Without any senators showing up to object, the bill cleared the Senate without a formal vote. The measure now heads to President Biden’s desk for his signature, having passed the House in late February with only three lawmakers opposed.


“This is the year, now is the time, that we do the right thing,” said Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina and a longtime champion of the legislation, in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor on Thursday. “Not for Republicans or Democrats, but for Americans who’ve watched, with bewildered eyes and confused hearts, their government fall short on issues of importance to them again and again and again. Let this year be the year we put politics to the side and we get it done.”

Representative George Henry White of North Carolina first introduced legislation to make lynching a hate crime in 1900; he was the only Black lawmaker in Congress at the time. The bill never made it to the House floor for a vote. In the years since, more than 200 similar bills have been filed, lawmakers estimated.

In 2005, the Senate formally apologized for its failure to act on the issue, including when Southern senators blocked similar legislation during the Jim Crow era. More than a decade later, three Black senators — Mr. Scott, Mr. Booker and Kamala Harris of California — began a renewed effort to see an anti-lynching measure signed into law.


The bipartisan passage, said Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois and a champion of the measure in the House, “sends a clear and emphatic messagethat our nation will no longer ignore this shameful chapter of our history.”

Read the full article here.