Lynching Legislation History; 2020 Update

SHAME on: GOP members Ted Yoho of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. The chamber’s lone Independent, Justin Amash of Michigan—who famously switched from Republican to Independent over his support for impeaching President Donald Trump—also voted no.

Sixteen members did not vote. The proposal, however, received broad bipartisan support and passed 410-4.

In 1900 Representative George Henry White, a black Republican from North Carolina, introduced the first anti-lynching bill in Congress. It was subsequently defeated in a committee.

The Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill was first introduced in 1918 by Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, a Republican from St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States House of Representatives as H.R. 11279.

It was intended to establish lynching as a federal crime. The Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill was re-introduced in subsequent sessions of Congress and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 26, 1922, but its passage was halted in the Senate by a filibuster by Southern extremists who formed a powerful block that exceeded their percentage of the population by having disenfranchised blacks.

Attempts to pass similar legislation took a halt until the Costigan-Wagner Bill of 1934. Subsequent bills followed but the United States Congress never outlawed lynching due to powerful opposition from Southern senators.

It was not until 2018 that the Senate would pass (unanimously) anti-lynching legislation, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act but the House failed to do until today.

Finally today February 26, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, a revised version of the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, by a vote of 410-4. Shame on the 4 voting against and the 16 who opted to not vote on this historic legislation.

History of Lynchings:

Lynchings were predominantly committed by whites against African Americans in the Southern and border states.

According to statistics compiled by the Tuskegee Institute, between the years 1882 and 1951 some 4,730 people were lynched in the United States, of whom 3,437 were black and 1,293 were white.

The first wave of lynchings occurred in the years immediately following the Civil War, but fell off sharply with the dissolution of the first Ku Klux Klan about 1870.

There was a revival in the 1890s; the largest annual number of lynchings occurred in 1892 (230 persons were lynched that year: 161 African-Americans and 69 whites) and continued for the next two decades at relatively high levels, in what is often called the nadir of American race relations, a period marked by disfranchisement of African Americans and Jim Crow in the South, and discrimination against African Americans across the country.

Many lynchings were the result of Southern whites’ extrajudicial efforts to maintain white supremacy, after gaining disfranchisement of most blacks through discriminatory voter registration and electoral rules, and imposing segregation and Jim Crow laws on the black population in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Maintaining white supremacy in economic affairs played a part as well.

Social changes resulting from a rapid rise in immigration from southern and eastern Europe, the rise of the Second Ku Klux Klan, and the internal Great Migration of blacks from the South to industrial cities in the Northeast and Midwest contributed to violent confrontations. In 1917, white mobs had attacked blacks in East St. Louis (a city located directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri) over competition for work and punishment for strikebreakers.

In 1900 Representative George Henry White, a black Republican from North Carolina, introduced the first anti-lynching bill in Congress. It was subsequently defeated in a committee.

In April 1919, the NAACP published a report which disproved the myth that stated most lynchings were based on African-American attacks on white women: less than one sixth of the 2,500 African Americans lynched from 1889 to 1918 had even been accused of rape.

Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, who represented a majority African-American district, had taken notice of the hate crimes occurring around him and was outraged by the violence and disregard for law in such riots. Dyer was especially concerned about the continued high rate of lynchings in the South and the failure of local and state authorities to prosecute them. This inspired his anti-lynching bill.

A silent protest in support of the bill was organized by African Americans on June 14, 1922 in Washington, D.C. Republican U.S. President Warren G. Harding announced his support for Dyer’s bill during a speaking engagement in Birmingham, Alabama. Although the bill was quickly passed by a large majority in the House of Representatives, it was prevented from coming to a vote in 1922, 1923, and 1924 in the U.S. Senate, due to filibusters by the Southern Congressional bloc.

Southern Senators opposed anti-lynching laws and other civil rights legislation on the ground that blacks were responsible for more crime, more babies born out of wedlock, more welfare and other forms of social assistance, and that strong measures were needed to keep them under control.

On June 13, 2005, in a resolution sponsored by senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and George Allen of Virginia, together with 78 others, the US Senate formally apologized for its failure to enact this and other anti-lynching bills “when action was most needed.”

On June 30, 2018, three senators (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott) introduced the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act to make lynching a Federal hate crime.

Poster above created by the NAACP at the turn of the century…

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of it on December 19, 2018. The House of Representatives also needed to vote on it, and the President needs to sign it, before it can become law. The house did so today and now let’s see if the administration will do what is right and just?

Update to Original Post:

The act was introduced in the US Senate in June 2018 by the body’s three Black membersKamala HarrisCory Booker, and Tim Scott. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously on December 19, 2018. The bill died because it was not passed by the House before the 115th Congress ended on January 3, 2019.

2020 bill

On February 26, 2020, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, a revised version of the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, passed the House of Representatives, by a vote of 410–4.  Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has held the bill from passage by unanimous consent in the Senate, out of concern that a convicted criminal could face “a new 10-year penalty for… minor bruising.” Paul requested expedited passage of an amended version of the bill which would require “an attempt to do bodily harm” for an act to be considered lynching, noting that lynching is already illegal under Federal Law. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer criticized Rand Paul’s position, saying on Twitter that “it is shameful that one GOP Senator is standing in the way of seeing this bill become law.” Senator Kamala Harris added that “Senator Paul is now trying to weaken a bill that was already passed — there’s no reason for this” while speaking to have the amendment defeated. To date the bill has not passed and is not signed due to the actions of 1 Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

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