Emmett Till Antilynching Act Passes House of Representatives

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act (H.R. 55), legislation sponsored by U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 422–3. This bill designates lynching as a federal hate crime. More than 6,500 Americans were lynched between 1865 and 1950, according to a report from the Equal Justice Initiative.

Rep. Rush reintroduced the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on the first day of the 117th Congress and has worked closely with the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate to reach an agreement on the bill text. H.R. 55 currently has 182 cosponsors in the House, both Democrats, and Republicans.

“Today is a day of enormous consequence for our nation,” said Rep. Rush. “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 failure of Congress to codify federal antilynching legislation — despite more than 200 attempts since 1900 — meant that 99 percent of lynching perpetrators walked free. Today, we take a meaningful step toward correcting this historical injustice. I am immensely proud of this legislation, which will ensure that the full force of the U.S. federal government will always be brought to bear against those who commit monstrous acts of hatred.

“I was eight years old when my mother put the photograph of Emmett Till’s brutalized body that ran in Jet magazine on our living room coffee table, pointed to it, 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. 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 lynching are far too prevalent in America to this day.

“I thank my colleagues in the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate who have worked tirelessly with me throughout the last year to reach agreement on the text of this legislation. I look forward to this bill passing the Senate and being swiftly signed into law.”

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act was first introduced by Rep. Rush in the 115th Congress. It passed the House of Representatives for the first time during the 116th Congress in February 2020  with overwhelming bipartisan support but was blocked in the Senate.

Under the bill that passed the House today, a crime can be prosecuted as a lynching when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious bodily injury. The legislation passed by the House today differs from the antilynching legislation passed during the 116th Congress in two primary ways:

  • The maximum sentence for a perpetrator convicted under the Antilynching Act is 30 years; the previous version of the legislation set the maximum sentence at 10 years. These charges would be in addition to any other federal criminal charges the perpetrators may face.
  • The legislation applies to a broader range of circumstances. Under the legislation passed last Congress, a crime could only be prosecuted as a lynching under very specific circumstances, such as if it took place while the victim was engaging in a federally protected activity.

Rush is also the lead sponsor of bipartisan legislation that would award a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley (H.R. 2252) and legislation that would direct the Postmaster General to issue a commemorative postage stamp in honor of Mamie Till-Mobley (H.R. 4581).

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