Biden has signed a bill that turns lynching into a federal hate crime

WASHINGTON – Presidents usually say a few words before turning legislation into law. But Joe Biden reversed the script on Tuesday when it came time to sign Emmett Till’s Anti-Lynching Act.

He signed the bill at a desk in the White House Rose Garden. Then he spoke.

“Okay. That’s the law,” said the president, who was surrounded by Vice President Kamala Harris, members of Congress and senior Justice officials. He was also joined by a descendant of Ida B. Wells, a black journalist who reported on the lynching. and Rev. Wheeler Parker, Till’s cousin.

Biden said it was “a little unusual to sign the bill, say nothing, and then talk.” But that’s how we set it up. ”

He thanked the audience of civil rights leaders, members of the Black Caucasus Congress and other guests who continue to push for the “never give up, never give up” bill.

Congress first considered anti-lynching legislation more than 120 years ago. By March of this year, he had failed to pass such legislation nearly 200 times, beginning with a bill introduced in 1900 by North Carolina’s George Henry White, the only black member of Congress at the time.


Harris was a major sponsor of the bill when he was in the Senate.

Emmett Till’s anti-lynching law is named after a black teenager whose murder in Mississippi in the summer of 1955 marked an exciting moment in the civil rights era. His grieving mother insisted on an open coffin to show everyone how brutal her son had been.

In his speeches, Biden acknowledged the delay in passing a book law and talked about how lynching was used to terrorize and intimidate blacks in the United States. More than 4,400 blacks died from lynching between 1877 and 1950, mostly in the south, he said.

“The lynching was pure terror to impose the lie that not everyone, not everyone belongs to America, not everyone is created equal,” he said.

Biden, who has many black men and women in key positions throughout his administration, stressed that forms of racial terror continue in the United States, demonstrating the need for anti-lynching status.


“Racial hatred is not an old problem – it’s a constant problem,” Biden said. “Hatred never goes away. He’s just hiding. “

The new law makes it possible to prosecute a crime as a lynching, when conspiracy to commit a hate crime leads to death or grievous bodily harm, according to the bill’s advocate, spokesman Bobby Rush, D-Ill. The law provides for a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and fines.

The House approved Bill 422-3 on March 7, with eight members not voting after clearing the Senate unanimously. Rush introduced a bill in January 2019, which the House of Representatives passed 410-4 before the measure was suspended in the Senate.

The NAACP began lobbying for anti-lynching legislation in the 1920s. A federal hate crime law was eventually passed and signed in the 1990s, decades after the civil rights movement.

“We have come together today to do unfinished business,” Harris said, “to acknowledge the horror and this part of our history, to state unequivocally that lynching is and always has been a hate crime, and to make it clear that the federal government is now can prosecute these crimes as such. “


Till, 14, traveled from his home in Chicago to visit relatives in Mississippi in 1955, when he was allegedly whistling to a white woman. Till was abducted, beaten and shot in the head. A large metal fan was tied to his neck with barbed wire before his body was thrown into a river. His mother, Mamie Till, insisted on an open coffin at the funeral to show the brutality her child had suffered.

Two white men, Roy Bryant and his half-brother JW Milam, were indicted but acquitted by an all-white jury. Bryant and Milam later told a reporter that they had abducted and killed Till.

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Biden has signed a bill that turns lynching into a federal hate crime

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