Senate Backs Legislation to Make Lynching a Federal Hate Crime

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    Booker and Harris
    Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris

    “Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our nation’s history and I’m hopeful this measure will swiftly pass the House.” –Sen. Kamala Harris.

    Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), have joined together to introduce a bi-partisan bill to make lynching a federal crime. The measure was passed in the Senate on Thursday and now goes to the House. Harris, Booker and Scott are the only Black members of the Senate.

    On Thursday, Harris tweeted:

    It’s outrageous that lynching still isn’t considered a federal crime. Congress tried and failed near 200 times between 1882 to 1986. About to ask the Senate to unanimously pass our anti-lynching bill. Let’s right this wrong.
    — Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 14, 2019

    While the Senate formally issued an apology to lynching victims in 2005, Congress has never passed an anti-lynching law– despite more than 200 attempts to do so.

    The bipartisan bill makes note of the federal government’s failure to stop lynching over the years, and defines the crime as “the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person.”

    “It’s not the first time we’ve come down to this body to try to right the wrongs of history,” Booker said on the Senate floor. “For too long we have failed, failed to ensure justice for the victims of history and failed to make clear in the United States of America, in this great country, lynching is and always has been not only a federal crime but a moral failure.”

    According to the NAACP, more than 4,740 lynchings occurred in the United States between 1882 and 1968– 3,446 Black, 1,297 white

    As large as those numbers are, the actual numbers could be much worse. Not all lynchings that took place during that time were reported or recorded.