President Joe Biden has signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act (H.R. 55), legislation sponsored and negotiated by U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), into law. H.R. 55 passed the U.S. House of Representatives on February 28th by a vote of 422–3 and passed the U.S. Senate unanimously on March 7th.
Rush, who attended the White House signing ceremony for the bill in the Rose Garden today, released the following statement:
“This is a historic day and a day of enormous consequence for our nation. After more than 100 years and 200 attempts, lynching is finally a federal crime in America. When I think of what this means — that we can finally provide justice for the victims of this heinous act; that we will be able to reckon with our nation’s legacy of lynching; and that we will, once and for all, send a strong message that we will not stand for these abhorrent crimes — I am elated.
“The enactment of my bill means that the full weight and power of the United States government can be brought to bear against those who commit this vicious crime. We will no longer face the question of if a perpetrator of lynching will be brought to justice — with the President’s signature today, we have eliminated that possibility moving forward.
“I was eight years old when my mother put the photograph of Emmett Till’s brutalized body that ran in Jet magazine on our living room coffee table, pointed to it, and said, ‘this is why I brought my boys out of Albany, Georgia.’ That photograph shaped my consciousness as a Black man in America and changed the course of my life.
“I am thinking of Emmett Till, who would have been 80 years old today. His brutal lynching ignited the civil rights movement and a generation of civil rights activists. It had a ripple effect that we still feel today; it began a worldwide movement to reckon with freedom, justice, and equality all around the world.
“Emmett Till meant so much to the City of Chicago. The signing of this bill is a victory for the City of Chicago, a victory for America, and a victory for Black America, in particular. I am so proud that we have come together — in a bipartisan fashion — to enact a law that will ensure lynchings are always punished as the barbaric crimes they are.”