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Booker, Harris Statement on Senate Passage of Anti-Lynching Bill

Bill would make lynching a federal hate crime after more than a century of failed attempts

December 19, 2018
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the below statement following the passage through the Senate by unanimous consent of their bipartisan Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018, historic legislation that would – for the first time in history – criminalize lynching, attempts to lynch, and lynching conspiracies.

The legislation was originally introduced in June by Booker and Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Tim Scott (R-SC). It passed the Judiciary Committee in October.

“Today is an emotional and historic day,” Booker said. “For over a century, members of Congress have attempted to pass some version of a bill that would recognize lynching for what it is: a bias-motivated act of terror. And for more than a century, and more than 200 attempts, this body has failed. Today, we have righted that wrong and taken corrective action that recognizes this stain on our country’s history.

“This bill will not undo the damage, the terror, and the violence that has been already done, nor will it bring back the lives that have been brutally taken,” Booker continued. “It will not reverse the irrevocable harm that lynching as a tool of oppression and suppression has caused. But it will acknowledge the wrongs in our history. It will honor the memories of those so brutally killed. And it will leave a legacy that future generations can look back on – that on this day, in this time, we did the right thing.”

“Lynchings were needless and horrendous acts of violence that were motivated by racism. And we must acknowledge that fact, lest we repeat it,” said Senator Harris. “From 1882 to 1986, Congress failed to pass anti-lynching legislation when it had an opportunity 200 times. Today, by passing this bill, we have offered some long overdue justice and recognition to the victims of lynching crimes."

From 1882 to 1986, Congress failed to pass anti-lynching legislation 200 times. Lynching was used as an instrument of terror and intimidation more than 4,000 times during the late 19th and 20th centuries, according to data from the Equal Justice Initiative.

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act is supported by the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Equal Justice Initiative.