JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – As we near the end of black history month in America a long-overdue bill so many civil rights icons fought and died for has made it through Congress.
This bill labels lynching as a federal offense and a hate crime for the first time at the national level.
As early as 1900 similar versions of anti-lynching bills have been brought forth on Capitol Hill but shot down in Congress or the Senate. Today, the one to finally make its way through bares the name of an innocent 14-year-old boy killed by this act in Mississippi.
With overwhelmingly bi-partisan support, the Emmett Till anti-lynching act surged through Congress passing 410-4.
“Too late is probably my best explanation,” William Collins told us at the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.
“It’s good that it’s being rectified,” Jackson State sophomore Terry Coleman said. “But it’s also a problem that it took so long.”
“I just find it completely disappointing and embarrassing that 200 years later we’re finally getting lynching outlawed,” Jackson State freshman Sydni Wilson added.
While sympathetic for its passing many we spoke to at the Civil Rights Museum and Jackson State expressed frustration why the heinous act took generations to be fully outlawed.
“We have seen grandparents, we have seen great grandparents that haven’t had the chance to be grandparents,” Coleman said. “Because it should have happened far sooner.”
“Most of the sacrifice were a lot of people’s deaths unnecessarily,” Wilson stated. “It was just a hate crime.”
For Sydni Wilson who’s from Atlanta playing soccer at Jackson State this bill passing hits close to home.
“My great great great grandmother who was born a slave, her husband was lynched,” Wilson explained. “I think they would rest easy now knowing their granddaughter doesn’t have to worry about this illegal issue going on.”
Walking through the Civil Rights Museum you’ll come across the hundreds of black victims who died from lynchings in Mississippi. The latest on record, Malcolm Wright hung in Chickasaw County in 1949. Accused of simply hogging the road.
“You could just get lynched for anything,” Collins said. “If they felt you didn’t move off the sidewalk quick enough it was anything.”
Under the law, lynching would carry an enhanced sentence that could lead to life in prison while also labeled a hate crime in all 50 states.
The bill unanimously passed in the Senate back in 2019. It was first brought on the floor in Congress by Representative Bobby Rush of Illinois. Who’s district also holds the former home Emmett Till grew up in.