On Monday, February 28th, the House of Representatives passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act in a 422-3 vote. The legislation was named after Till, a fourteen-year-old Black teenager from Chicago who was abducted, tortured, and murdered in the state of Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling and making sexual advances toward a White woman, Carolyn Bryant, in a store. The men that were charged with murdering Till were acquitted by a jury that was comprised of all White males. Bryant, who is now known as Carolyn Donham, acknowledged in 2017 that her claims against Till were false.
The legislation, formerly known as H.R. 55, would amend section 249(a) of title 18 of the U.S. Code to specify that a crime can be prosecuted as a lynching when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious bodily injury. The crime would be punishable by up to 30-years in prison. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), the representative who introduced the legislation, cited a report by the Equal Justice Initiative titled, Reconstruction in America: Racial Violence after the Civil War, 1865-1876” that found that nearly 6,500 racial terror lynching’s took place in the United States between 1865 and 1950. Lawmakers have attempted to pass legislation to address lynching at the federal level over 200 times since 1900, but these efforts were unsuccessful, despite having had the support of some lawmakers and presidents. The most recent attempt took place two years ago, in 2020, when Rep. Rush introduced a similar bill, but it was subsequently blocked by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who stated that he was afraid that the legislation would “conflate lesser crimes with lynching” and that “it would allow enhanced penalties for altercations that resulted in only minor bruising.” Sen. Paul released a statement on Monday stating that he worked with other senators to “rework” the legislation, which now includes the words: “death or serious bodily injury.” The legislation will now head to the Senate for consideration.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Explain how the bipartisan support of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act in the House of Representatives directly addresses the history of racism and bigotry in the United States.
- Debate: According to Representative Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), one of the three representatives who voted against the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, adding enhanced penalties for “hate” tends to endanger other liberties, such as freedom of speech. Do you believe that the enhanced penalties for “hate” will endanger other liberties?
- Poll: Passing the antilynching legislation rights a historical wrong. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss why the previous version of the bill was blocked by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in 2020.
Cover Image: iStock.com/powerofforever