Wednesday marked a monumental and equally historic day in Black history as the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act was passed by the house, criminalizing lynching, thus making the act a hate crime under federal law. The legislature, which is in honor of Till, the 14-year-old Black boy who was kidnapped, tortured and lynched in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman, was successfully voted on by the House of Representatives after attempting to pass the bill for more than a 100 years. Black leaders celebrated the feat, which was introduced by Congressman Bobby L. Rush.
The bill was passed with a unanimous 410-4 vote, with Independent Rep. Justin Amash and Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert, Thomas Massie and Ted Yoho, being the members of the House to vote against it.
Nonetheless, Rush, who introduced the “long overdue” bill in January 2019, said that it will now criminalize “an American evil.”
“Lynching, plain and simple, is an American evil,” Rush said. “This atrocity is comparable to the French use of the guillotine, the Roman Empire’s use of crucifixion, and the British use of drawing and quartering as a tool of terrorism. And, for too long now, federal law against lynching has remained conspicuously silent. Today, we will send a strong message that violence —and race-based violence, in particular — has no place in American society.”
Rush also expressed gratitude to Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott for “working with my office on this landmark piece of legislation, and I look forward to it being quickly passed in the Senate and immediately sent to the President to be signed into law.”
Harris, Booker and Scott applauded the house’s passage of the bill. They proposed a similar bipartisan bill last year, but the Senate has to vote on the version of the bill that was passed on Wednesday, The Washington Post reports.
“Lynchings were horrendous, racist acts of violence,” Sen. Harris in a statement. “For far too long Congress has failed to take a moral stand and pass a bill to finally make lynching a federal crime. … This justice is long overdue.”
Sharing Harris’ sentiments, Booker also said in a statement, “Today brings us one step closer to finally reconciling a dark chapter in our nation’s history.”
Black leaders took to social media on Wednesday to celebrate coming one step closer to making lynching a federal hate crime.
“In 1955, Illinois native, Emmett Till, was murdered by a gruesome act of lynching. The history of lynching is a dark reminder of our nation’s past. Today, the House took a long-overdue step to designate lynching as a federal hate crime by passing the Emmett Till Antilynching Act,” Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois said.
Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP also wrote, “The Emmett Till Antilynching Act has just passed in the House, making lynching a federal hate crime. We know that race-fueled crimes in this nation did not stop in 1955 after the brutal murder of Emmett Till. We call on the Senate to pass this important #CivilRights legislation.”
Lawmakers have failed to pass the bill nearly 200 times, according to The Washington Post. The bill was first introduced in 1900 by North Carolina Rep. George Henry White, who was the only Black member of Congress at that time, according to ABC News.
According to the Congressional Black Caucus, 4,743 people were lynched between 1882-1968, with seventy-five percent of them being Black.