The U.S. Senate has given final approval to legislation that would make the act of lynching a federal hate crime.
The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act cleared the Senate Monday night by unanimous consent, a week after it was approved by the House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 422-3.
The legislation was named after Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black teenager whose torture and murder in Mississippi in 1955 was one of the galvanizing events of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.
The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is the latest of more than 200 bills introduced in Congress since 1900 to make lynching, a brutal act of murder carried out specifically against Black Americans across the United States, a federal hate crime. The civil rights group National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) says more than 4,700 Blacks were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968, while the Equal Justice Initiative says there were nearly 6,500 lynchings between 1865 and 1950.
The House passed an anti-lynching bill in 2020 following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of three white men in Georgia, but it was blocked in the Senate by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, who said it would elevate lesser crimes with lynching.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the bill’s passage Monday, but said it was “a bitter stain on America” that it took more than a century to do so.
Once it is signed into law by President Joe Biden, a person convicted of lynching could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.