WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) asked for unanimous consent on the Senate floor to pass the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, legislation that would criminalize lynching for the first time in American history. The motion was passed, marking a historic step towards the first federal anti-lynching law in the United States. The legislation was introduced earlier today by Senator Harris, who was joined by her colleagues Senator Booker and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).
In December 2018, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent, marking the first time in American history that federal anti-lynching legislation had been passed by the Senate.
“Lynchings were acts of violence—they were horrendous acts of violence, and they were motivated by racism,” said Harris. “With this bill, we finally have a chance to speak the truth about our past and make clear that these hateful acts should never happen again. We can finally offer some long overdue justice and recognition to the victims of lynching and their families.”
“Lynching is not a relic of a painful past—it is a present and pernicious evil that we still have yet to confront,” said Booker. “Today’s Senate passage of the Justice For Victims of Lynching Act is a historic step towards acknowledging a long and painful history and codifying into law our commitment to confronting bias-motivated acts of terror in all of its forms. I urge the House of Representatives to take up this bill so that after over 100 years and 200 attempts, we can finally make lynching a federal crime.”
“Today the Senate sent a strong signal that this nation will not stand for the hate and violence spread by those with evil in their hearts,” said Scott. “I look forward to this important legislation ending up on the President’s desk for signature.”
According to data from the Equal Justice Initiative, lynching was used as an instrument of terror and intimidation 4,084 times during the late 19th and 20th centuries. From 1882 to 1986, Congress failed to pass anti-lynching legislation 200 times.
The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act is supported by the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Equal Justice Initiative.