The Senate on Monday unanimously approved the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022, which would make lynching a federal hate crime, and sent it over to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
The bill, named after the Black teen who was brutally lynched by white men in Mississippi in 1955, could slap convicted offenders with a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
“After more than 200 failed attempts to outlaw lynching, Congress is finally succeeding in taking a long-overdue action by passing the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a floor speech after the vote.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the measure on Feb. 28. Only three House lawmakers voted against it: Reps. Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Chip Roy (R-TX).
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), the lead sponsor of the bill, cheered the Senate’s vote on Monday, declaring in a statement that it “sends a clear and emphatic message that our nation will no longer ignore this shameful chapter of our history.”
“At this moment, I am reminded of Dr. King’s famous words: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,'” Rush said.
Lawmakers have unsuccessfully tried to make lynching a federal crime for over a century, starting in 1900, when North Carolina’s Rep. George Henry White, the only Black member of Congress at the time, introduced the first bill to do so.
The House passed an anti-lynching bill in 2020, but it was blocked in the Senate after Sen. Rand Paul objected to it, arguing that it was too broad. The Kentucky Republican co-sponsored the newly passed bill this year.