Senate Unanimously Passes Anti-Lynching Bill Named After Slain Black Teen Emmett Till

The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act passed on Monday evening and will head to President Joe Biden to sign into law

Emmett Till
Emmett Till. Photo: Getty

The Senate unanimously passed a bill named after Emmett Till Monday evening, which will make lynching a federal hate crime. The bill now heads to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.

The legislation makes it possible to prosecute a crime as a lynching when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious bodily injury, according to Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, who introduced the bill. It is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

"After more than 200 failed attempts to outlaw lynching, Congress is finally succeeding in taking the long overdue action by passing the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. Hallelujah. It's long overdue," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor following the bill's passage, CNN reports.

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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.

Rush introduced the bill in 2019 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." The bill was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives in February 2020 but later blocked by the Senate that year.

Emmett Till

Following Monday's unanimous consent, Rush said that we are correcting "historic and abhorrent injustice."

"Lynching is a longstanding and uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has for decades been used to maintain the white hierarchy," Rush said in a statement Monday. "Perpetrators of lynching got away with murder time and time again — in most cases, they were never even brought to trial."

"Unanimous Senate passage of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act sends a clear and emphatic message that our nation will no longer ignore this shameful chapter of our history and that the full force of the U.S. federal government will always be brought to bear against those who commit this heinous act," he continued.

The Equal Justice Initiative reports that 4,084 people, predominately African Americans, were lynched reported in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. Congress has tried and failed to pass anti-lynching laws 200 times since 1900.

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