(NewsNation) — It’s a law more than 100 years in the making.
The Senate passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on Monday, after dozens of failures on the part of lawmakers to address justice and dignity for thousands of Black Americans tortured in terrifying, extrajudicial killings, which were often performed in public.
Around 200 bills aimed at banning lynching in America have been introduced over the past century.
Last year, when the bill was being discussed, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., held it up, saying it was “too broad.”
But now, the bill is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk. Once signed, lynching will be a federal hate crime, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
The act gets its name from the Black teenager who was brutally tortured and killed after he was accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi.
Till’s killing — and his mother’s insistence on an open funeral casket to show the world what had been done to her child — helped define the civil rights movement.
“Lynching is a longstanding and uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has for decades been used to maintain the white hierarchy,” said Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who introduced the bill in the House in 2019. Rush said passage of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act “sends a clear and emphatic message that our nation will no longer ignore this shameful chapter of our history.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., noted just how long it took Congress to get to this point.
“After more than 200 failed attempts to outlaw lynching, Congress is finally succeeding in taking a long-overdue action by passing the Emmett Till Antilynching act,” Schumer said. “Hallelujah, it is long overdue.”
One of the bill’s Senate sponsors, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., tweeted that by passing the legislation, the Senate took a “necessary and long-overdue step toward a more unified and just America.”
Between 1877 and 1950, the Equal Justice Initiative documented 4,084 lynchings in 12 Southern states.
Many considered the 2020 murder of Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery a modern-day lynching. Arbery was killed by three men who chased and shot him. All three men were convicted of hate crimes in federal court after being convicted of murder at the state level last fall.
“Think about all the Black people who have been lynched in the history of America, in Georgia, who never ever got their day in court,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said.
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