Booker thankful for support in the passage of historic anti-lynching bill

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent | 12/31/2018, 8:10 a.m.
Cory Booker was so moved by the unanimous passage of a historic – and long overdue – bill to make ...
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker

Cory Booker was so moved by the unanimous passage of a historic – and long overdue – bill to make lynching a federal crime that he was stirred to quote Maya Angelou.

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again,” Booker said as he thanked the Senators who agreed in a historic moment to stand up as one and make lynching a federal crime.

The bill would require an enhanced sentence for those who commit such crimes and judges would now be able to hand down life sentences to perpetrators.

“Gratitude,” Booker said as earlier, the New Jersey Democratic Senator joined with California Democrat Kamala Harris in seeking the Senate’s support.

Introduced to the Senate in June, the legislation still needs House approval and, of course, the signature of President Donald Trump.

Reportedly, there have been 200 previous attempts over the past century to pass similar legislation, but each had failed to this point. Between 1890 and 1952 in the United States, seven presidents petitioned Congress to end lynching, reads language in the bill.

The bill defines a person guilty of lynching as “willfully, acting as part of any collection of people, assembled for the purpose and with the intention of … (causing) death to any person.”

Between 1882 and 1968, the NAACP recorded 4,743 lynchings, 3,446 of which included victims who were black. In all, 73 percent of the people lynched were black, but the NAACP said not all lynchings were recorded at the time.

“Lynching is a dark and despicable aspect of our nation’s history,” said Senator Harris, who along with Booker are the center of swirling speculation about a 2020 presidential run. “We must acknowledge that fact, lest we repeat it,” she said.

As racial tension grew in the late 19th century, mostly in the South, lynchings became a popular way of resolving the anger whites had toward newly freed slaves in the middle of general economic problems.

However, Newsweek reported that 27 percent – or 1,297 of the 4,743 total number of people lynched from 1882 to 1968 – were white. The NCAAP said many whites were lynched in retaliation for aiding blacks, expressing anti-lynching sentiments or committing domestic crimes.

“This has been a long arc, a painful history and a shameful history in this body,” Booker said.

“At the height of lynchings across this country, affecting thousands of people, this body did not act to make that a federal crime… at least now, the United States Senate has acted. One hundred senators, no objections,” he said.

Just one day before the Senate passed the anti-lynching legislation, President Donald Trump signed “The First Step Act,” a bill that provides a measure of criminal justice reform.

Booker co-sponsored The First Step Act.

He appeared on the “Black Eagle” Joe Madison’s Sirius XM Radio Show to talk about that bill and to slow some of the rhetoric that it was a complete criminal justice reform overhaul.

“I just want everybody to know it is just a first step and I know there will be some people heralding it as the reform of the criminal justice system. That’s a little a wrong and it’s a lot wrong and even offensive because we have a lot more work to do,” Booker said.