Darlene Superville, Associated Press, March 29, 2022
Presidents typically say a few words before they turn legislation into law. But Joe Biden flipped the script Tuesday when it came time to put his signature on the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act.
He signed the bill at a desk in the White House Rose Garden. Then he spoke.
“All right. It’s law,” said the president, who was surrounded by Vice President Kamala Harris, members of Congress and top Justice Department officials He was also joined by a descendant of Ida B. Wells, a Black journalist who reported on lynchings, and Rev. Wheeler Parker, a cousin of Till.
He thanked the audience of civil rights leaders, Congressional Black Caucus members and other guests who kept pushing for the law for “never giving up, never ever giving up.”
In his remarks, Biden acknowledged delay in getting a law on the books, and spoke about how lynchings were used to terrorize and intimidate Blacks in the United States. More than 4,400 Blacks died by lynching between 1877 and 1950, mostly in the South, he said.
“Lynching was pure terror, to enforce the lie that not everyone, not everyone belongs in America, not everyone is created equal,” he said.
The new law makes it possible to prosecute a crime as a lynching when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime leads to death or serious bodily injury, according to the bill’s champion, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. The law lays out a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and fines.
“Today we are gathered to do unfinished business,” Harris said, “to acknowledge the horror and this part of our history, to state unequivocally that lynching is and has always been a hate crime and to make clear that the federal government may now prosecute these crimes as such.”