Lynching finally made federal crime 65 years after Emmett Till’s murder

Danielle Zoellner
AP

Congress has made lynching a federal crime in a law named after Emmett Till, nearly 65 years after the teenager was murdered in Mississippi.

The bill, sponsored by representative Bobby Rush of Illinois, was approved in the House of Representatives on Wednesday in an overwhelming majority 410-to-four vote that labels lynching as a hate crime under federal law. It designates the crime as punishable by up to life in prison, a fine, or both.

Since the passing of the bill in the House, it will now move to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign. The Senate unanimously passed the bill last year.

Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old child from Chicago, was tortured and murdered in 1955 after a white woman accused the teen of grabbing her outside a Mississippi grocery store. The alleged incident encouraged the woman's husband and brother to attack four days later.

The two men were charged with murder but later acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury. Both men confessed to the crime later.

"The importance of this bill cannot be overstated," Mr Rush, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement. "From Charlottesville to El Paso, we are still being confronted with the same violent racism and hatred that took the life of Emmett and so many others. The passage of this bill will send a strong and clear message to the nation that we will not tolerate this bigotry."

The bill was named the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, and it only received votes against its passing from Republicans Louie Gohmert of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Ted Yoho of Florida, and independent Justin Amash of Michigan.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi applauded Congress, specifically Mr Rush, for passing the bill. Efforts to pass anti-lynching legislation have failed nearly 200 times in the past.

"We cannot deny that racism, bigotry and hate still exist in America," she said, referencing the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, among other recent incidents.

Congress first brought forward an anti-lynching bill in 1900 by George Henry White, a North Carolina representative and the only black member of Congress, according to the Associated Press.

Bennie Thompson, who represents the area in Mississippi where Mr Till was murdered, called the anti-lynching bill long overdue. "No matter the length of time, it is never too late to ensure justice is served," he added.

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