Southern Baptist Leaders Welcome Anti-Lynching Law

WASHINGTON (BP) – Southern Baptist leaders commended the enactment of an anti-lynching law that required more than 120 years of legislative efforts before succeeding.

In a ceremony March 29 at the White House, President Biden signed the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, which classifies lynching as a federal hate crime. Under the measure, a person found guilty of conspiring to carry out an act of lynching that results in “death or serious bodily injury” may be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years and fined.

Till, a 14-year-old African American from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955 when he was abducted and viciously murdered allegedly for flirting with a white woman. At Till’s funeral, the casket was left open at his mother’s insistence so others could witness the brutality inflicted on her son. The events are credited with helping inspire the civil rights movement. While two white men were acquitted of the crime, they later told a reporter they had kidnapped and killed Till, according to the Associated Press.

North Carolina Rep. George Henry White, the only Black member of Congress at the time, introduced the first anti-lynching law in 1900, and nearly 200 more congressional proposals were offered before the latest legislation passed both chambers, AP reported. The House of Representatives voted 422-3 for the bill Feb. 28, and the Senate passed it by unanimous consent March 7.

Willie McLaurin, interim president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, told Baptist Press the bill’s signing “is a reminder that evil does not have the last word. Emmitt Till’s brutal lynching 67 years ago awakened the conscience of a nation and spurred a movement among African Americans to bring justice and equality.”

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Source: Baptist Press