The U.S. Senate’s only Black lawmakers all banded together this summer to create a bill that would make lynching a federal crime.
And now, months later, the hard work of Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott has succeeded with a unanimous vote Wednesday. The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act ensures that perpetrators would be punished by a sentence of up to life in prison. It would be an additional charge on top of murder.
“Lynching is a dark and despicable aspect of our nation’s history,” Harris tweeted after the vote. “We must acknowledge that fact lest we repeat it.”
Lynching is a dark and despicable aspect of our nation’s history. We must acknowledge that fact, lest we repeat it. Thank you to my colleagues for agreeing to unanimously pass our Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, and @CoryBooker and @SenatorTimScott for your partnership.
To get the bill through the Senate, Booker, Scott, and Harris needed either the support of 60 senators or a deal to pass the bill by a voice vote.
The passing of the bill comes after almost a century of attempts to outlaw lynching nationally. According to Harris’ office, Congress has tried but failed to pass anti-lynching legislation roughly 200 times since 1918.
But many are actually surprised that such a bill doesn’t already exist. Booker called the lack of anti-lynching legislation “a travesty.”
“This sends a very powerful message,” Booker told The New York Times in July. “Literally thousands of African-Americans were being lynched throughout history, and the Senate never stepped up to pass any legislation to stop this heinous, despicable behavior.”
Although lynchings are rare today, there are still incidents of lynching and noose intimidation.
The nation’s first memorial to the victims of lynching opened in Alabama this past April. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice commemorates 4,400 African Americans who were killed in lynchings and other racism-related murders between 1877 and 1950.