February 14, 2019

Duckworth, Durbin Cosponsored Anti-Lynching Legislation Passes Senate Unanimously


[Washington, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) in cosponsoring the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Lynching Act. Previously, Senators Harris, Booker and Scott introduced similar legislation in the 115th Congress that passed the Senate unanimously but was not considered by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives at the time.

“Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. We must acknowledge our nation’s terrible history of lynching and the terror and pain that it caused – as well as the federal government’s repeated failure to intervene – if we are to effectively stem the increase in hate crimes that have shaken us to our core in recent years,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to join Senators Harris, Booker and Scott in introducing this bipartisan legislation to finally make lynching a federal crime and send an important message that hate has no place in American society.”

“Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African-Americans lost their lives at the hands of hate-fueled mobs. It’s outrageous that for more than a century, Congress failed to address this epidemic of homegrown terrorism and make lynching a federal crime. This bill recognizes our nation’s painful past and takes an important step toward justice. The House should pass this legislation as soon as possible,” said Durbin.

“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.”

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act amends the United States Code to specify that lynching is a crime under existing federal civil rights statutes. The legislation was originally introduced in June 2018 by U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tim Scott (R-SC), and unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018.

Lynching was used as an instrument of terror and intimidation 4,084 times during the late 19th and 20th centuries, according to data from the Equal Justice Initiative.

This legislation is endorsed by: the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, and the Equal Justice Initiative.