After twelve decades of failed attempts, there is now a federal law that makes lynching a hate crime. President Biden signed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act into law during a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday.
“Racial hate isn’t an old problem. It’s a persistent problem,” Biden said. “Hate never goes away, it only hides under the rocks. If it gets a little bit of oxygen, it comes roaring back out, screaming. What stops it? All of us.”
When a conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious bodily injury, offenders can face up to 30 years in prison under the law.
Vice President Kamala Harris stated that lynching is “not a relic of the past.”
“Racial acts of terror still occur in our nation. And when they do, we must all have the courage to name them and hold the perpetrators to account,” she stated.
The bill is named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black teenager who was abducted, tortured, and brutally murdered in 1955 after being accused of whistling at and trying to grab at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, while visiting family in Mississippi.
An all-white jury absolved Roy Bryant, Carolyn Bryant’s husband, and J.W. Milam, Roy Bryant’s half brother, of Till’s murder.
Historian on Emmett Till’s accuser recanting story (January 2017)
The men later confessed to murdering Till in a magazine interview. Carolyn Bryant told a historian 50 years after the violent act that Emmett never touched her.