H.R.35 - Emmett Till Antilynching Act

CAN's Congressional photo of congress member and Senator Cory Booker

To amend section 249 of title 18, United States Code, to specify lynching as a hate crime act.

You might favor this bill if:
►  You believe existing civil rights law should extend protections against racially motivated lynching crimes. Even though the Senate has apologized for failing to make lynching a federal crime, Americans who exist in vulnerable communities need anti-hate-crime protections written in the law to protect them from extreme violence and to ensure those who commit these acts are subject to sufficient justice.

You might oppose this bill if:
►  You believe that current federal law prohibiting violent crimes is already enough to prevent race-based lynching, making it unnecessary. Federal antilynching legislation is infringing upon state rights.
Introduced House Senate President Law

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act amends existing civil rights law to specify that anybody who – by choice – involves themselves in a group of people planning on violently harming or causing death to any person, will face punishments ranging from severe fines all the way to life in prison.

The law would also extends to individuals acting under color of law, meaning it would apply to law enforcement themselves should an act be deemed in violation of the law itself.

While there’ve been massive strides in preventing racial violence in the U.S., the Senate’s decision to make lynching a federal crime in December 2018 is, at least partially, a response to an upsurge in hate crimes throughout the nation. In recent time, there have been mass shootings at an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Despite the reach of antilynching laws protecting people of all races, lynching has been primarily characterized by white southerners committing the act on black southerners.

The Tuskegee Institute reports that of the 4,742 lynchings that happened between 1892 and 1968, 3,445 of the victims were black. Most instances involved mass mobs of white southerners, shooting, burning, and mutilating a black victim's body alive.

Historically, local police were complicit in lynching or did nothing to stop the killing of blacks for violating Jim Crow rules.

For instance, in 1927, an angry mob of 5,000 white people from Arkansas lynched and hanged a black man named John Carter from a telephone pole, then set it ablaze in the black section of town. Instead of restraining or preventing the mob, city police directed the massive flow of traffic around the scene, and the coroner's reports said that Carter had been killed "by parties unknown in a mob." The investigation resulted in not one single prosecution.

H.R. 35 is named after a victim of a lynching in 1955. Two white segregationists murdered a 14-year-old black male from Chicago named Emmett Till, who was visiting his family in Mississippi. Till's murder led to nationwide outrage, particularly when one month after his body was pulled from a local river, an all-white jury acquitted Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam of the murder. The acquittal was reached even after eyewitnesses identified the two killers.

There have been numerous civil rights groups – such as the Anti-Lynching Crusaders (ALC) – connected with the NAACP, who've made continual request to make lynching a federal crime. From 1890 to 1952, seven presidents have petitioned Congress to end lynching. Between 1920-1940, the House of Representatives passed three strong antilynching measures where Congress almost enacted antilynching legislation.

Those opposing antilynching legislation have always argued States' rights and used the filibuster to block the Senate from voting on the measures.

The closest Congress came to implementing antilynching legislation was the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Then, in 2005, Senators Mary Landrieu and George Allen spearheaded a resolution which apologized for the Senate's failure to enact antilynching legislation as a federal crime. However, 20 of the 100 senators failed to cosponsor the decision at first. It was only constituent pressure that forced those holding out to add their names as cosponsors, but this happened after the vote was already taken.

After 13 years, the Senators who failed to vote in favor in 2005 have changed their minds, voting to outlaw an act that "willfully cause bodily injury to any other person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person" as defined by the bill.

Healing past and present racial injustice requires Congress to make lynching a Federal crime so the U.S. can begin reconciliation.


Sponsored by: Rep. Rush, Bobby L. [D-IL-1].

Cosponsored by: 1 Rep / 131 Dem.

See list of cosponsors.

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