House of Representatives Passes Anti-Lynching Bill Named After Slain Black Teen Emmett Till

The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act passed by a 410-4 vote on Wednesday

Emmett Till
Emmett Till. Photo: Getty

The House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill named after Emmett Till which will make lynching a federal hate crime. The legislation is expected to pass in the Senate and head to President Donald Trump for a signature.

The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is named after the 14-year-old who was kidnapped, brutally beaten and lynched in 1955 in Mississippi after he was accused of whistling at and harassing a white woman.

Decades later, the woman recanted. Till’s death was a catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement.

“Today, we send a strong message that violence — and race-based violence, in particular — has no place in America,” Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush said in a statement, according to ABC News.

Rush introduced the bill last year and named it after Till, who was from the representative’s 1st District in Illinois. He said the legislation will finally outlaw “an American evil.”

It passed by a 410-4 vote on Wednesday, with independent Rep. Justin Amash and Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert, Thomas Massie and Ted Yoho voting no.

Amash explained his decision to vote against the bill in a lengthy Twitter thread in which he maintained the bill was redundant and expanded hate crime punishment to include pursuing the death penalty, which he opposes.

“The bill’s main effect is to make these conspiracies punishable to the same extent (or greater) as the underlying crimes, some of which are punishable by death,” Amash wrote. “We should abolish the death penalty, not expand it to more crimes.”

But Georgia Rep. Doug Collins said the bill ensures “that those who engage in mob violence are held accountable.”

“We cannot deny that racism, bigotry and hate still exist in America,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, citing a number of incidents, including the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to The Washington Post.

“At least 4,742 people, predominantly African Americans, were reported lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968,” the bill states, noting that 99 percent of lynching perpetrators escaped punishment. Congress has tried and failed to pass anti-lynching laws nearly 200 times since 1900, according to the bill.

The two men responsible for killing Till — Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam — were acquitted of their punishment.

More than 60 years later, Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who accused Till of harassing her then, revealed that was false.

“Now he’s put in another light. That means a lot to me,” Wheeler Parker, Till’s cousin, told PEOPLE in 2017. “That’s a godsend to me for her to say that.”

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