Harris, Booker, Scott Introduce Bill to Make Lynching a Federal Crime


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC), the only African-American members of the United States Senate, have introduced legislation to make lynching – the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person – a federal crime.

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018 will amend the United States Code to specify that lynching is a crime in itself that would warrant an enhanced sentence under existing federal hate crime statues. Leader Mitch McConnell was recently asked about anti-lynching legislation and responded, “I certainly would support it.”

“Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our history, and we must acknowledge that, lest we repeat it,” said Senator Harris. “From 1882 to 1986 there have been 200 attempts that have failed to get Congress to pass federal anti-lynching legislation, it’s time for that to change.”

“It’s a travesty that despite repeated attempts to do so, Congress still hasn’t put anti-lynching legislation on the books,” said Senator Booker. “This bill will right historical wrongs by acknowledging our country’s stained past and codifying into law our commitment to abolishing this shameful practice.

“This measure is certainly well past due and I am glad to be able to join in efforts that will underscore the severity of this crime,” said Senator Scott. “This piece of legislation sends a message that together, as a nation, we condemn the actions of those that try to divide us with violence and hate.”

“It is never too late for our nation to express our sorrow for the decades of racial terror that traumatized millions in this country, said Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and the founder of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, a national memorial acknowledging the victims of racial terror lynchings. “Passing an anti-lynching law is not just about who we were decades ago, it’s a statement about who we are now that is relevant, important and timely.”

The efforts to pass anti-lynching legislation date back to 1918, when Congressman Leonidas C. Dyer (R-Mo.) became the first member of Congress to introduce a bill on the subject. His bill, intended to punish authorities that failed to prevent lynching, was designed to act as a deterrent that would end the practice.  His bill ultimately died in the Senate after facing stiff opposition. After 200 failed attempts by Congress to pass anti-lynching legislation, however, Congress is now prepared to right this shameful failure to criminalize lynching as an instrument of terror and intimidation used against more than 4,000 African-African men, women, and children during the late 19th and 20th centuries, according to data from the Equal Justice Initiative.

As recently as 2005, ninety (90) members of the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan resolution apologizing to the victims of lynching for the repeated failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation. These senators expressed their deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States.

This is the Senate companion to legislation introduced last week in the House of Representatives by Congressman Bobby L. Rush (H.R. 6086) and 36 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

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

Text of the bill can be found here.

In addition to Harris, Booker, and Scott, the legislation was introduced by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Doug Jones (D-AL), Angus King (I-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).


  1. What a waste of time!

    Lynching someone ends up killing the person. Killing someone is illegal already……not really sure what the point of this is. If a person kill somebody, they can be prosecuted for it. Obviously the jury would be able to take into account any lynching that occured already as it is now. End of story.

    And this whole “it is never too late to for our nation to express our sorrow for decades of racial terror” is uter BS. That part of history is well documented and well known fact. It doesn’t need to be acknowledged anymore than it already has as about 99% of the general public would agree that it was horrible what occured.

    Wasting our tax dollars on a more “feel good” legislation does absolutely nothing to improve our current racial division that the media and politicians are drumming up and is tearing apart this country. This us vs. them needs to end.

    • My thoughts exactly. Politically stoking the flames of racial divide that had pretty much gone out until 2008 when BLM still referred to the Bureau of Land Management. Can anyone honestly recall a case of lynching since the Deep South in the mid-60’s?

      By the way, that list of sponsors and endorsers are a “Who’s Who” of divisive liberal politics. I guess disharmony in the populous is good a progressive agenda.

  2. I am interested in the 200 arguments the Senate had made against those bill. An enhanced sentencing to hate crimes is right.

  3. Hah! I don’t trust politicians! What other shadiness did they sneak in while giving the bill a noble name to get the sympathy vote… Hence the 200? Don’t forget, lots of these politicians are lawyers (Kamala). Lots of back door deals. If The Don vetoes it then there will be a huge outcry blah blah blah…. what’s in the verbage? Hard to decide wether to call politicians snakes or sharks. Either way they are dangerous. Or maybe used car salesmen? You’re definitely gonna get screwed….

Comments are closed.