ABOVE PHOTO: President Joe Biden signs the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, March 29, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
By Darlene Superville
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a bill into law to make lynching a federal hate crime, more than 100 years after such legislation was first proposed. The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is named after the Black teenager whose killing in Mississippi in the summer of 1955 became a galvanizing moment in the civil rights era. His grieving mother insisted on an open casket to show everyone how her son had been brutalized.
Biden acknowledged the long delay during remarks in the Rose Garden to lawmakers, administration officials and civil rights advocates, stressing how the violent deaths of Black Americans were used to intimidate them and prevent them from voting simply because of their skin color.
“Thank you for never giving up, never ever giving up,” the president said. “Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone, not everyone, belongs in America, not everyone is created equal.”
But the president stressed that forms of racial terror continue to exist in the U.S. — creating the need for the law.
“Racial hate isn’t an old problem — it’s a persistent problem,” Biden said. “Hate never goes away. It only hides.”
The new law makes it possible to prosecute a crime as a lynching when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime leads to death or serious bodily injury, according to the bill’s champion, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). The law lays out a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and fines.
The House approved the bill 422-3 on March 7, with eight members not voting, after it cleared the Senate by unanimous consent. Rush also had introduced a bill in January 2019 that the House passed 410-4 before that measure stalled in the Senate. Congress first considered anti-lynching legislation more than 120