House Passes Historic Anti-Lynching Hate Crime Bill

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The US House of Representatives passed a bill Monday (February 28) to make lynching a federal hate crime. In a 422-3 vote, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act passed, marking the first time anti-lynching legislation passed in the chamber after more than 200 attempts since the year 1900.

Three Republicans opposed the measure –– Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Chip Roy of Texas, and Andrew S. Clyde of Georgia.

The bill is named after 14-year-old Emmett Till who was abducted, tortured and brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955. The US Department of Justice recently closed the murder case for a second time, after re-opening it when reports of new evidence came to light. The men who confessed to murdering Till were acquitted for the killing that historians say reinvigorated the Civil Rights Movement.

"By passing my Emmett Till Antilynching Act, the House has sent a resounding message that our nation is finally reckoning with one of the darkest and most horrific periods of our history and that we are morally and legally committed to changing course" the bill's sponsor, Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois said, per NBC News. "

Rush said that at eight-years-old his mother put the photo of Till's body published in Jet Magazine on the coffee table and said, "This is why I brought my boys out of Albany, Georgia."

"That photograph shaped my consciousness as a Black man in America, changed the course of my life, and changed our nation," he said. "But modern-day lynchings like the murder of Ahmaud Arbery make abundantly clear that the racist hatred and terror that fueled the lynching of Emmett Till are far too prevalent in America to this day."

A report by the Equal Justice Initiative estimates that 6,500 lynchings took place in America between 1865 and 1950. The racial violence continued for decades. In March 1981, Michael Donald was lynched by the KKK in Alabama. His mother, Beulah Mae Donald sued the Klan and won.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement after the vote, stating that "hateful attacks are not a relic of the past." In the two years, the rate of hate crimes have spiked according to DOJ data.

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