WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — With nearly unanimous support Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure to make lynching a federal hate crime.
The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act is named after an African American 14-year-old from Chicago who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955.
“America and the world saw the results of hatred,” Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., whose district includes Chicago and who sponsored the bill, said of Till’s murder.
He said he will never forget the moment his mother showed him photos of Till’s mutilated body.
“She said, ‘This is the reason why I will not allow my boys to be raised in the South,’” Rush recalled.
Till’s murderers were never convicted — something that happened again and again in the deaths of African Americans.
Lawmakers said Wednesday’s vote was long overdue: The first anti-lynching bill was first introduced before Congress more than a century ago.
“It is important to hear the facts and the brutality that was inflicted upon African Americans,” Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., said. “Especially now, when we see the resurgence of white supremacy.”
Rush said that following the abolition of slavery, at least 4,000 African Americans were lynched and that many of the victims remain nameless.
“We have scars on our souls,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said. “This is another step where the government says, ‘Of course, we’re not for lynching,’ and I think it ought to be declared that way.”
The Senate, which already passed similar legislation last year, still needs to approve the House bill. Rush said that will likely happen by Friday, before the end of Black History Month. Supporters expect the president will sign the bill into law.