Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 55, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act
Washington, February 28, 2022
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement on the House floor in support of H.R. 55, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act:
"The 'Emmett Till Antilynching Act' is long-overdue legislation that would correct a historical injustice by finally specifying lynching as a crime under federal law.
"Our nation endured a shameful period during which thousands of African Americans were lynched as a means of racial subordination and enforcing white supremacy. These violent incidents were largely tolerated by state and federal officials, and they represent a stain on our nation’s legacy.
"Today, we acknowledge this disgraceful chapter in American history, and we send a clear message that such violent actions—motivated by hatred and bigotry—will not be tolerated in this country.
"The term 'lynching' generally refers to premeditated public acts of violence—often resulting in death—carried out by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to strike fear among a targeted group.
"Throughout history, lynching has been employed as an extreme form of informal group social control and has often been conducted with the display of a public spectacle for maximum intimidation.
"This legislation is named in honor of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American youth from Chicago who was lynched in particularly gruesome fashion while visiting an uncle in Mississippi in 1955. His murder, and the antilynching movement that followed, set the stage for the creation of the civil rights movement that we recognize today.
"Though lynching touched all races and religions and occurred throughout the United States, it was most common in the South and was targeted primarily at Blacks.
"During the period between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. These violent incidents profoundly impacted race relations and shaped the geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African American communities in ways that are still evident today.
"The first federal antilynching legislation was introduced in 1900—almost 120 years ago—by Congressman George Henry White, the only African American Member of Congress at that time. Unfortunately, neither his bill, nor any other antilynching bills that were introduced in the decades that followed managed to pass Congress.
"The Department of Justice has used other laws to prosecute some civil rights-era crimes and hate crimes that were described as lynching in public discourse, but there is still no federal law explicitly prohibiting lynching.
"Today, we act to correct this historical injustice.
"I thank the Gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Rush, for his leadership on this important issue and for his attention to history."In memory of Emmett Till, and in memory of all the victims of lynching throughout our history, I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time."