Photos: Wikimedia CommonsTwitter
On Tuesday, President Joseph Biden signed into law the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, a law that finally declares lynching a federal hate crime. The legislation is named in honor of Emmett Till, a young black teenager who was kidnapped and brutally tortured, all for allegedly whistling a white woman.
Yet while Emmett was murdered by white supremacists in 1955, acts of racist violence continue to tear across America today. According to the most recent data from the FBI, reported hate crimes reached a two-decade high in 2020. Black people continue to be the most common victims of hate crimes.
Emmett was only fourteen years old and only five foot four when he was killed. After Emmett’s murder, his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, made the decision to hold an open funeral, leaving her son’s brutalized body visible to the thousands of people who gathered to pay their respects. The images of Emmett’s mutilated body and a mother’s raw grief galvanized the country and served as a turning point in the civil rights movement.
“Today is truly a historic moment,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Our country has deep racial wounds and this legislation is the first step to addressing them. Congress has tried unsuccessfully for decades to make lynching a federal hate crime. It is high time our country passed legislation recognizing the unique nature of lynching as a horrific crime that sends a chilling message to entire communities. Now, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act sends an important message of its own: those who engage in racist violence will be held fully accountable.
“I commend President Biden for moving quickly and signing into law this essential legislation,” said Ollie Gordon, cousin of Emmett Till and chairman of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation. “While passing the Emmett Till Antilynching Act will not bring back Emmett or the countless other lynched black people, it is encouraging to have legislation recognizing the nature of the hateful activity that took the lives of Emmett and others. others for those of us who have lost loved ones. those with racist violence.
The Advocates Committee has been a leading organization calling for the passage of federal anti-lynching legislation, which builds on the Matthew Shepard James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act to provide new tools for federal prosecutors in matters of racist hatred. Through its James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate, the Lawyers’ Committee supports communities and individuals targeted by hate and challenges white supremacy using creative legal advocacy, disrupting the systems that enable hate and by educating the general public and decision makers.
For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.