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On this day in 1900

Jan. 20, 1900

President Joe Biden reaches out to Michelle Duster, great-granddaughter of civil rights pioneer Ida B. Wells, after signing the “Emmett Till Antilynching Act” in the White House Rose Garden, Wednesday, March 29, 2022. Credit: Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith

Black Congressman George H. White, a Republican from North Carolina, introduced a bill to make lynching of Americans a federal offense, only to see the bill die in committee. 

More attempts followed. More than 4,700 lynchings of Americans took place between 1882 and 1951, two-thirds of them Black Americans. 

In 1916, the NAACP began pushing for anti-lynching legislation. NAACP President Moorfield Storey urged those in Congress to not tell Black Americans “that their case is hopeless, that this great country cannot protect them from absolute wanton murder with the connivance and with the assistance of the officers appointed by law to defend them, and with absolute indifference on the part of the United States.” 

Two years later, Congressman Leonidas Dyer, a white Republican from Missouri, who was upset at the violence in St. Louis and continued lynchings across the South, introduced such a bill. Unlike White’s proposal, Dyer’s passed the House and sailed to the Senate floor for a vote — only to be halted by a filibuster carried out by Southern Democrats, who hinted that such lynchings were necessary. 

Between 1882 and 1968, nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced, and seven U.S. presidents asked for such a law to be adopted, but no bill passed. After the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, Black senators pushed again for anti-lynching legislation, which was finally adopted in 2022, promising to punish those who would carry out such hate crimes with up to 30 years in prison. President Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law. 


“Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone belongs in America, not everyone is created equal,” he said. “Racial hate isn’t an old problem — it’s a persistent problem. Hate never goes away. It only hides.”


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