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  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Senate Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJune 28th, 2018

What is it?

This bill — the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018 — would make lynching a federal crime automatically warranting an enhanced sentence under existing federal hate crime statutes. It would make lynching punishable by a sentence of up to life in prison. This bill wouldn’t preclude murder charges, which can already be brought under existing law.

Impact

Federal hate crime laws; people who commit lynching; and victims of lynching.

Cost

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), along with the two other African-American members of the Senate, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC), introduced this bill to make lynching a federal crime warranting an enhanced sentence under existing federal hate crime statutes:

“Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our history, and we must acknowledge that, lest we repeat it. From 1882 to 1986 there have been 200 attempts that have failed to get Congress to pass federal anti-lynching legislation, it’s time for that to change.”

When recently asked about anti-lynching legislation, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed support and said that he believed an anti-lynching law was already on the books. In an interview on Sirius XM, Sen. McConnell said, “I thought we did that many years ago. I hadn’t thought about it, I thought that was done back during L.B.J. or some period like that. If we need [an anti-lynching law] at the federal level, I certainly will support it.”

Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and the founder of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, a national memorial acknowledging the victims of racial terror lynchings, argues:

“It is never too late for our nation to express our sorrow for the decades of racial terror that traumatized millions in this country. Passing an anti-lynching law is not just about who we were decades ago, it's a statement about who we are now that is relevant, important and timely."

In an NPR interview after the Senate passed a resolution apologizing to lynching victims for its failure to pass anti-lynching legislation, University of New Hampshire African-American History and American Studies professor Harvard Sitkoff argued that the need for federal anti-lynching legislation was negated by the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s:

“[L]ynching as such now has decreased very significantly. In part because of the threat of federal anti-lynching legislation, Southern states began to do much, much more to stop lynching from occurring and to themselves prosecute lynchers when a lynching did occur. To a very large extent, then, a federal anti-lynching law became superfluous.”

There are 29 cosponsors of this bill, including three Republicans, 24 Democrats, and two independents. The NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, and Equal Justice Initiative support this bill. There is a House version of this bill, introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and 36 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).


Of NoteLynching is the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person. Historically, it’s been associated with racially-motivated crimes, especially in the South. From 1882 to 1968, nearly 5,000 peopleover 70% of whom were African-American, were victims of lynching in the U.S. Despite the number of crimes, 99% of those responsible for lynchings escaped prosecution or punishment by state or local officials. While lynching no longer occurs with regularity in the U.S., it’s never been officially made a federal offense. According to a film produced by Ted Koppel, the last documented lynching in the U.S. was of Michael Donald in Mobile, AL in 1981 by two members of the KKK.

Congress has tried — and failed — to enact anti-lynching legislation at least 240 times. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, seven presidents called for an end to lynching, and the House of Representatives passed multiple anti-lynching measures between 1920 and 1940. The Senate, however, repeatedly failed to enact anti-lynching legislation despite repeated requests by civil rights groups, presidents, and the House of Representatives.

In 1918, Rep. Leonidas C. Dyer (R-MO) was the first to introduce an anti-lynching bill. His bill, intended to punish authorities that failed to prevent lynching, was designed to act as a deterrent that’d end the practice. Dyer’s bill ultimately died in the Senate after facing stiff opposition.

The last attempt to pass an anti-lynching bill was in 1965. In 2005, the Senate issued an apology for its past legislative failures. In a bipartisan resolution, 90 out of 100 Senators apologized to lynching victims for the Senate’s repeated failure to enact anti-lynching legislation, and expressed their deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded to all U.S. citizens.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / madsci)

AKA

Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018

Official Title

A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to specify lynching as a deprivation of civil rights, and for other purposes.

    Is this a question??
    Like (221)
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    Murder or attempted murder is already a crime.
    Like (71)
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    Lynching is already a crime of hate and it should have been a hate crime years ago. We are behind the times with making it a federal crime.
    Like (155)
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    Due to the historical context of the act, of course this should be true.
    Like (101)
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    Of course! Zero tolerance for this heinous act.
    Like (79)
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    It’s not already??? What year is it?
    Like (64)
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    Is this even a question?
    Like (50)
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    The fact that lynching is not already considered a federal hate crime is extremely telling. This needs to be signed into law as soon as possible given the heightened violent and hateful cultural climate currently.
    Like (48)
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    Countable, by your own admission there hasn't been a documented lynching in the U.S. in nearly four decades. For those emotional types that can’t do math that’s 40 years. Also known as two generations. And the Civil Rights Act (drafted and introduced by Republicans I might add) has long-since negated the need for a federal anti-lynching law. Moreover, lynching aka hanging (when performed by others against someone’s will) generally results in what’s known as murder by death. And murder in most states carries with it what is known as the death penalty. And since civil society cannot kill the perpetrator more than once, I don’t see how escalating something into a so-called hate crime helps matters? Unless of course you’re looking to politically stir the pot and further divide our nation, which clearly you are.
    Like (34)
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    It’s a no brainer , yes
    Like (33)
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    This is dumb. Lynching is already illegal. The fact that this is a question shows that the left is trying to revive racism. Sorry guys but we stand against hate.
    Like (31)
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    Most definitely! A person couldn’t hang an animal without being penalized and looked at as an animal hater. If that is hate...it definitely needs to be even more of a hate thing if a person lynches another human being. It’s a hate crime times ten.
    Like (28)
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    Please pass this law!
    Like (21)
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    Why isn't it already on the books?
    Like (20)
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    Obviously, The very definition of lynching involves hatred. It should be subject to extra sentencing for heinous violence.
    Like (18)
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    I know of two lynchings In the Bay Area of CA, one of which was identified, and one of which was called suicide. Having witnessed the violence of prison guards against inmates, I am suspicious of the many “suicides” by hanging in jails and prisons as lynchings. A young black man was hanged and his family, my clients at that time, were 100% certain he would never commit suicide. I join them in suspecting lynching. Yes, lynching should be a federal hate crime. It is an appalling and terrifying threat with its long onerous history and experience tells me it isn’t in the past yet.
    Like (17)
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    When was the last time anyone was lynched? This is a smoke screen. There hasn’t been a lynching in the United States since 1981 by Democrats in the KKK. Who haven’t been this pissed off since they were told they couldn’t own people. Burning witches should also be a federal crime. As should execution with a guillotine.
    Like (16)
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    This is already a crime. Waste of time and money.
    Like (16)
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    Yes, unless it's "We The People" making sure "Our Government" is doing what it swore an Oath of Office and Signed the Affidavit to that effect to do so! You Lying Creeps have been committing FELONIES BY LYING TO US. DO YOU ALL DESERVE A PUBLIC EXCUTATION, PROBABLY BUT, I'LL SETTLE FOR A LOT OF PRISON TIME AND STRIPPING YOU OF ALL YOUR PENSIONS & SCREWING UP YOUR HEALTHCARE. MIGHT AS WELL TREAT YOU LIKE YOU TREAT US, YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE "AN EXAMPLE FOR ALL" YOU SCREWED THAT UP DIDN'T YOU
    Like (14)
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    Whoever says no to this needs to reevaluate their moral fiber
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