Historic Anti-Lynching Bill Faces Backlash


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Road leading to the museum memorializing Emmett Till.

Mona Taylor, Staff Writer and Editor in Chief

On February 26, 2020, the House of Representatives passed a new law that made lynching illegal. Lynching is when a mob of angry people murder an innocent person, usually by public hanging. It is considered a hate crime and was common between the 1880s and the 1960s. Now that lynching has become a federal crime, it is expected to no longer occur, but because the last recorded lynching in the United States occurred in 1981, people are saying that the anti-lynching law is too little, too late. 

One of the most prominent cases of lynching is the case of Emmet Till, a 14-year-old boy who, in 1955, was viciously attacked by a gang of white men who accused him of harassing a woman named Carole Bryant. She claimed that Till was acting menacingly toward her and tried to sexually assault her, causing her husband and a friend of his to kidnap Till, lynch him, and hide his body in a river. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, Till’s kidnappers, were found not guilty for their crimes, infuriating the public. Years later, a historian asked Carole Bryant about Till’s menacing behavior toward her, and she simply said, “That part is not true.”

Now, congress has made it a federal crime to lynch anyone in the U.S., putting an end to a terrifying practice that has been used in the United States for about 185 years. A bill was sent to Congress in 1922 called the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. It read that it was “An act to assure to persons within the jurisdiction of every State the equal protection of the laws, and to punish the crime of lynching.” It was passed by the House of Representatives but was stopped in the Senate. This bill would have helped put an end to lynchings in the United States nearly 100 years ago. Now, the House has passed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act. It was passed with a majority vote of 410-4.

Still, people are saying that although the bill has a positive impact it is long overdue. However, Deborah Watts, the co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and Till’s cousin, thinks the law provides a bit of closure. She stated, “With this vote, it will finally be criminalized, and the importance of that cannot be overstated. Perhaps now the victims who have been crying out from their graves for centuries and their relatives still struggling today can now find some semblance of peace.”