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Bill brings the nation one step closer to adopting the first federal anti-lynching legislation

(Washington, DC) – Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act in an overwhelming bipartisan vote (422-3), legislation which would finally declare lynching a federal hate crime. In 1955, Emmett Till, a young Black boy, was kidnapped and brutally tortured, all for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Yet, more than six decades later, lynching is still not a federal hate crime, an omission the Emmett Till Antilynching Act aims to correct.

“By recognizing lynching as a federal hate crime, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act brings the full force of the law to bear in vindicating the rights of victims and survivors who endure the most violent form of racism. Just as importantly, the bill recognizes our country’s history of violence against Black bodies,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “According to FBI data, Black people continue to be the most common victims of hate crimes.  This important legislation sends a message that those who engage in racist violence will be held accountable. That message is especially important given the continuing white supremacist violence endemic to our nation.”

Emmett, was just fourteen and a mere five foot four inches tall when he was killed by a group of white men. After Emmett’s murder, his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, made the decision to hold an open-casket funeral, leaving her son’s brutalized body visible to the thousands who gathered to pay their respects. The images of Emmett’s mangled body and a mother’s raw grief galvanized the country and served as a turning point in the Civil Rights movement.

“Emmett was like a sibling to me, he had a big heart and loved joking around,” said Ollie Gordon, a cousin of Emmett Till and president of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation. While passage of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act would not bring back Emmett or the countless other Black people lynched, it is a step in the right direction. I encourage the Senate to pass the bill and for President Biden to promptly sign it into law, so that those who have lost loved ones to lynchings and other hate crimes know that bigoted violence will not be tolerated.”