President Joe Biden signed a bill into law on Tuesday that makes lynching a federal hate crime, acknowledging how racial violence has left a lasting scar on the nation and asserting that these crimes are not a relic of a bygone era.
The bill Biden signed into law, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022, is named after a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago who was brutally murdered by a group of White men in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a White woman in 1955, according to CNN. His murder sparked national outrage and was a catalyst for the emerging civil rights movement.
Lynching was a terror tactic used against Black Americans, particularly in the racially segregated South. According to Tuskegee University, which collects records on lynchings, 4,743 people were lynched from 1882 to 1968 and 3,446 of them were Black.
At a White House Rose Garden signing ceremony, the President didn’t hold back in describing the history of racial violence experienced by Black Americans and its continued impact.
He said, “Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone … belongs in America, not everyone is created equal. Terror, to systematically undermine hard-fought civil rights. Terror, not just in the dark of the night but in broad daylight. Innocent men, women and children hung by nooses in trees, bodies burned and drowned and castrated.”
“Their crimes? Trying to vote. Trying to go to school. Trying to own a business or preach the gospel. False accusations of murder, arson and robbery. Simply being Black,” he continued.