Emmett Till Antilynching Act: House passes bill to make lynching a federal hate crime

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill by a vote of 422-3 Monday night making lynching a federal hate crime.

Congressman Bobby Rush introduced the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, named after the Chicago teenager who was murdered in Mississippi.

"Hopefully people will think twice before they go out and commit a crime against a different person because of their race or gender or lifestyle," said Ollie Gordon, Emmett Till's cousin.

SEE ALSO | Federal investigation into 1955 murder of Emmett Till officially closed, family says

Gordon lived in the same Woodlawn home as his cousin until 1955, when Till was brutally tortured and killed while visiting relatives in Mississippi. His death at age 14 sparked the civil rights movement, but repeated attempts over the years to make lynching a federal crime failed.

"I think we're moving in the right direction despite how long it's taken," said Perri Irmer, president and CEO at the DuSable Museum.

The DuSable Museum currently has an installation called "Unresolved" that highlights the cases of more than 150 people who were killed during the civil rights movement. Irmer said this latest step toward making lynching a federal hate crime is long overdue.

"It's so incredibly important that our younger generations not repeat the mistakes of the past," Irmer said. "Not repeat the criminal acts of the past."

The anti-lynching act came close to becoming law two years ago. It Passed the House, but was blocked in the Senate. This time, legislation applies to a broader range of circumstances. Gordon said she's cautiously optimistic.

"I'm hopeful and praying that it will pass in the Senate," she said.

Now that the bill has passed the House, it's expected there will be a unified show of support from senators, including Rand Paul from Kentucky, who opposed the originally measure two years ago for being too broad.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.