It has been a long time coming, but the U.S. has finally made lynching a federal hate crime.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) introduced the bill, naming it the Emmett Till Antilynching Act after the 14-year-old boy who was lynched in Mississippi 65 years ago, Vice reports. It’s also been 120 years since Congress first considered passing anti-lynching legislation.
The legislation passed 410 to four in the House and is now on its way to the White House, where President Trump is anticipated to sign it. The Senate passed the bill last year, which specifies lynching “as a federal hate crime punishable by up to life in prison, a fine, or both,” NBC News writes.
Rush’s district includes Till’s former home. Till was tortured and killed in 1955 after a white woman said he grabbed her and whistled at her in a Mississippi supermarket. The black boy’s death galvanized the civil rights movement.
“The importance of this bill cannot be overstated,” Rush told NBC. “From Charlottesville to El Paso, we are still being confronted with the same violent racism and hatred that took the life of Emmett and so many others. The passage of this bill will send a strong and clear message to the nation that we will not tolerate this bigotry.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) represents the district where Till was abducted and killed. “No matter the length of time, it is never too late to ensure justice is served,” Thompsons told NBC.
The country’s only black congressman, Rep. George Henry White, proposed an anti-lynching bill in 1900, at a time when lynchings of black people were uncontrolled, especially in the South. More than 4,000 black people were lynched in 12 Southern states between 1877 and 1950, according to Vice.
Rep. Rush expedited the bill so it would be passed during Black History Month.