On Tuesday, March 29th, President Joe Biden signed a bill to make lynching a federal hate crime. The Emmett Till Antlynching Act is the product of over a century long effort to end lynching in America. The first anti-lynching bill was introduced 122 years ago by the only Black member of Congress at the time, George Henry White, but failed in many attempts after that. The current Emmett Till Antilynching Act introduced by Senator Cory Booker, Senator Tim Scott, and House representative Bobby Rush was named after 14-year-old Chicago teen, Emmett Till who was lynched in Mississippi during the summer of 1955.
In the summer of 1955, Till went to visit family in Money, Mississippi, and during his visit he allegedly whistled at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant. Later in the trip, Till was kidnapped from his home and brutally tortured and then lynched with a fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. The two men were never held responsible for their crimes as they were acquitted by an all white male jury. Emmett Till’s death sparked much conversation. Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, decided to have an open casket funeral to show the world the brutality that her son endured. The funeral got attention from all over the world and this lit a fire in activism and discrimination against Black people in America.
Although the passing of this antilynching bill is a joyous occasion, it is important to note how long this took. Violence affecting Black bodies has been an issue for centuries. It should not have taken until the year 2022 to recognize lynching as a federal hate crime. So, while we celebrate this great accomplishment, we must not get complacent and keep fighting for justice every day. We must remember and learn from those who came before us and the ones we lost to this horrible act of violence.
By Asata Young, Senior, Kenwood Academy