It’s hard to believe, but that’s true! The legislation passed the Senate last Monday, and I can’t believe that it took so long!
Below is the text of the article from the Chicago Tribune March 8 2022 by Darcel Rockett.
Legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime and prevent racist killers from evading justice was introduced more than 200 times but never once passed into law, according to Illinois U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.
That path is clearer now that the Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday that criminalizes lynching and makes it punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The measure passed the House last month and now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk.
“Who would have imagined that lynching, that was visited upon literally over 6,000 citizens of our nation, that lynching was not a federal crime until our present day,” Rush told the Tribune on Tuesday. “We’re looking forward to a more perfect union.”
The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, named for the Chicago teen and authored by Rush, states a crime can be prosecuted as a lynching when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious bodily injury. Emmett Till, the 14-year-old son of Mamie Till-Mobley, was murdered in Mississippi in 1955. The act first passed the House of Representatives in February 2020, but was blocked when Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., objected to clearing it by unanimous consent in the Senate.
Rush reintroduced the act on the first day of the 117th Congress in January 2022. The previous text of the legislation set the maximum sentence at 10 years and made lynching a crime that could only be prosecuted under specific circumstances, such as if it took place while the victim was engaging in a federally protected activity such as voting.
Now, the act amends the United States Code to include a maximum sentence of 30 years for a perpetrator convicted under the anti-lynching act, in addition to any other federal criminal charges the perpetrators may face, and the legislation applies to a broader range of circumstances.
Thousands of Americans were lynched between 1865 and 1950, according to a 2020 report from the Equal Justice Initiative.
Rush, who is in communication with Till’s remaining relatives, said they were very determined that the bill was going to pass and they did all they could, including praying that President Biden would be able to sign it.
Rush said the prayers have been answered. He wants to see if a formal ceremony can take place to honor the measure. Rush, who will leave his office after this term, doesn’t see this as a feather in his cap, but he does see it as a victory for the American people — for Black Americans specifically.
When the Till act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020, a boyhood friend of Till’s said the law refreshed our memory of what our history looks like, placing value on history, so we don’t repeat it.
That was before the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Mississippi closed their investigation of the Till case in December 2020 after Carolyn Bryant, now Carolyn Donham, the wife of one of the confessed murderers and a witness to events leading up to Till’s murder, alleged recantation of events in a 2017 book by Timothy Tyson titled “The Blood of Emmett Till.”
Per a DOJ statement, the government’s re-investigation found no new evidence suggesting any living person was involved in Till’s abduction and murder. Till’s remaining relatives said the “findings came as no surprise.”
Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam, were tried on murder charges about a month after Till was killed, but an all-white Mississippi jury acquitted them. The trial is the basis of a recent immersive stage adaptation of the 1955 trial transcript performed by Collaboraction, “Trial in the Delta: The Murder of Emmett Till.”
WMAQ-Ch. 5. news anchor Marion Brooks found the transcript in her research on Till and wanted to get the information out. The play will also live on screen as part two of Brooks’ documentary on Till, “The Lost Story of Emmett Till: The Universal Child.”
Days after Till was killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman, his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, where it was tossed after being weighed down with a cotton gin fan. Months later, Bryant and Milam confessed to the killing in a paid interview with Look magazine. Bryant and Milam were not brought to trial again, and they are now both dead. Donham has been living in Raleigh, North Carolina.
G. Riley Mills and Willie Round, co-creators of the play, said the bill was a long time coming.
“While we’re glad it was finally passed by Congress, it’s hard not to feel anger and disappointment at how long it took,” Mills said. “We salute Congressman Rush for his tireless efforts championing the cause for Emmett and Mamie.”
Christopher Benson, an attorney, Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism associate professor, and co-author with Mamie Till-Mobley of “Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America,” said people have to take encouragement from the new legislation.
“One hundred years and there never was agreement on a way forward to address this horror of racial violence,” he said. “It’s a good start, but now we have to enforce it.”
For the past four years, Benson has worked with the Till family. He said Till’s family is highly supportive.
“Whether this compensates for the lack of justice in Till’s case is another matter,” he said. “We have to ask, what does justice require? Justice would have meant that Emmett Till came home alive. So we can never truly experience justice in this case. We have sought some level of accountability from his killers and the government structure that enabled that lynching. Because the killers of Emmett Till believed that they could get away with the destruction of a Black body, because of the horrible system that exists in this country, particularly in Mississippi at the time.”
Rush shares similar sentiments.
“It’s a victory for Emmett Till, his legacy, his family and the over 6,000 people who were lynched in our nation, all the way up to this moment,” he said. “This is really an intergenerational, historical victory.”