Congress passes Emmett Till bill to make lynching a hate crime

A man speaks at a podium
Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) speaks during a news conference about the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act on Capitol Hill in 2020.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

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 Biden to sign into law.

Years in the making, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is among some 200 bills that have been introduced over the last century that have tried to ban lynching in America.

It is named for the Black teenager whose brutal killing in Mississippi in 1955 — and his mother’s insistence on an open funeral casket to show the world what had been done to her child — became a pivotal moment in the civil rights era.


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March 7, 2022

“After more than 200 failed attempts to outlaw lynching, Congress is finally succeeding in taking a long overdue action by passing the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

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 L. Rush (D-Ill.). The maximum sentence under the Anti-Lynching Act is 30 years.

The House overwhelmingly approved a similar measure in 2020, but it was blocked in the Senate.

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March 7, 2022

Last week, the House approved a revised version and the Senate passed the bill unanimously late Monday.

“Lynching is a long-standing and uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has for decades been used to maintain the white hierarchy,” Rush said.

The congressman said passage of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act “sends a clear and emphatic message that our nation will no longer ignore this shameful chapter of our history and that the full force of the U.S. federal government will always be brought to bear against those who commit this heinous act.”