By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
In 1955, Emmett Till, was tortured and murdered. He was a 14-year-old Black boy whose supposed crime was talking to a white woman. Emmett’s death was part of the catalyst that launched the Civil Rights Movement.
Earlier this week, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act was passed by the Senate. Under the act, lynching is a federal hate crime. If a victim is killed or injured due to a hate crime, the crime will be prosecuted as a lynching, according to USA Today.
The bill is now on the desk of President Joe Biden.
Last month, Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) introduced the legislation to make the lynching a federal crime, according to Booker’s senate page.
“Between 1936 and 1938, the national headquarters of the NAACP hung a flag with the words ‘A man was lynched yesterday’, a solemn reminder of the reality Black Americans experienced daily during some of the darkest chapters of America’s history,” Booker said in a statement back in February.
“While we cannot erase our nation’s past, we can work toward a better future for all Americans,” Scott said in the same February statement. “The Emmett Till Antilynching Act will do just that. This long-overdue piece of legislation sends a clear message: We will not tolerate hatred and violence against our fellow Americans.”
The bill passed the House earlier this month with a 422-3 vote. U.S. Reps. Andrew Clyde (R-Georgia), Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) voted against the bill.
In Booker and Scott’s February statement, they addressed the history of the anti-lynching bill.
This bill has been over 100 years in the making. Anti-lynching legislation was first introduced in 1918 by Congressman Leonidas C. Dyer. The bill met opposition in the Senate and failed to pass.
The Equal Justice Initiative is a nonprofit organization. If a person has been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced or abused in either state jails or prison, they can seek legal representation through this group. The Equal Justice Initiative is also against the death penalty and excessive punishment.
In the group’s report, “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror,” it details the history and impact of lynching. The report noted that more than 4,400 racial terror lynchings took place between Reconstruction and World War II in the United States.
Booker took to Twitter on Monday, March 7 to remark on the Senate’s passing of the bill.
“I am overjoyed with the Senate passage of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. The time is past due to reckon with this dark chapter in our history and I’m proud of the bipartisan support to pass this important piece of legislation,” Booker tweeted.
Scott likewise tweeted, “Tonight the Senate passed my anti-lynching legislation, taking a necessary and long-overdue step toward a more unified and just America. After working on this issue for years, I am glad to have partnered with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to finally get this done.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who alongside Booker and Scott first introduced the bill in 2018, also celebrated the passing.
“It is long overdue that we recognize lynching for the stain on this nation’s history that it is. Congress, for the first time in more 100 years and after 200 tries, has made lynching a federal crime.
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act will go to @POTUS to sign into law.”