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CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Lynching finally a federal hate crime decades after Emmett Till’s murder

Lynching is finally recognized as a hate crime. On Feb. 26, the U.S. House passed legislation that classifies lynching as a federal hate crime.

Known as the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, it passed on a 410-4 vote, was introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

The act is named after Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black child who was kidnapped from his relatives’ home in Mississippi and mutated and lynched by several White men.

In 1955, Carolyn Donham was 21-years-old and working at her husband’s store in Mississippi when the alleged encounter occurred. Till, who lived in Chicago, was visiting his family when he and his cousin went to the store. At some point, Till went inside of the store alone while Donham was at the register. After about one minute, Till left the store.

Donham lied and told her husband that Till touched her hand, made a suggestive comment, and whistled at her while he was in the store. Till’s cousin Simeon Wright, who was at the store, said that it would have been impossible for Till to do such things during the short period of time he was inside.

But Donham’s husband, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam, believed her lie and snatched Till from his family home. Till was tortured and executed by Bryant and Milam. Both men were acquitted of the crime, but later admitted to committing the crime in an interview by saying Till needed to be taught a lesson.

Bryant and Milam were arrested, but they were acquitted on all charges.

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act comes 120 years after the first anti-lynching bill was initially presented in the U.S. House.

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