Juliegrace Brufke, The Hill, February 26, 2020
The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed historic legislation that would classify lynching as a federal hate crime.
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which passed on a 410-4 vote, was introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). It is named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy who was lynched in 1955 in Mississippi.
The measure’s passage comes roughly 120 years after a committee in the lower chamber defeated legislation that would have criminalized lynchings. It also passed decades after the House approved its first bill, by Rep. Leonidas C. Dyer (R), that would have made lynchings a federal crime. That legislation was ultimately filibustered in the Senate.
“Today the House will pass the Emmett Till Antilynching Act and designate lynching as a hate crime under federal law. But we must admit, it is a travesty that it has taken 120 years for the U.S. government to address this crime. In fact, the first bill to outlaw lynching was introduced in 1900. Make no mistake, lynching is terrorism,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said on the floor ahead of the vote Wednesday.
“It’s terrorism directed at African Americans. Lynching was commonly used for 256 years during the period of enslavement and for almost 100 years after slavery, well into the 1950s. And frankly, even today periodically you will hear news stories of nooses being left on college campuses, in work locker rooms to threaten and terrorize African Americans. A vicious reminder that the past is never that far away.”
House Republicans praised the measure, but expressed frustration that more time was not allocated for GOP lawmakers to co-sponsor the bill.
Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told reporters he was considering calling for a unanimous consent vote to allow members to co-sponsor the bill, adding that Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) previously introduced the legislation during the 115th Congress and the 116th Congress.
“I’m for the bill, I’d like to be a co-sponsor, but they moved it out quickly to the point where under the rules, you can’t add yourself as a co-sponsor,” he added. “And I’d like to seek a motion to seek unanimous consent to allow every member to be a co-sponsor that wants to be, but so far they have not allowed that under the rules.”