The Senate unanimously passes the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on Monday. The act states that a crime in which conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious bodily injury can be prosecuted as a lynching. The bill was passed in the House on February 28.
In 2018, Booker and then-Senator Kamala Harris first introduced antilynching legislation and subsequently helped lead its unanimous passage in February 2019. After the effort stalled, Booker reintroduced the Emmett Till Antilynching Act last month to create a specific offense for lynching under existing federal hate crime statues.
“After 200 failed attempts and over a century’s worth of efforts, I am proud to say that Congress has finally passed legislation to criminalize lynching, a shameful instrument of terror used to intimidate and oppress Black Americans,” U.S Sen. Cory Booker said in a statement. “During the 19th and 20th centuries, more than 4,000 African-American men, women, and children were lynched and between 1936 and 1938, the national headquarters of the NAACP hung a flag with the words ‘A man was lynched yesterday’, solemn reminders of the dark eddies of our nation’s past.”
In 1900, Congressman George Henry White of North Carolina introduced the first of what would ultimately become a series of more than 200 congressional bills that attempted to make a federal crime. Ninety members of the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan resolution in 2005 apologizing to the victims of lynching for the repeated failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation.
“I first introduced legislation to make lynching a federal crime in 2018. Over the years, I have been proud to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure this bill passes Congress and heads to the President’s desk,” Booker said. “The bipartisan support this bill has achieved underscores the importance of meeting this moment, of reckoning with the past, and of finally being able to say that we did the right thing.”