After more than 100 years of attempts, Lynching is now a federal hate crime
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- After hundreds of failed attempts spanning more than 100 years, lynching is now a federal hate crime in the United States. The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden Tuesday, March 30.
In its formal definition, lynching is described as the killing of an accused individual, often by an angry mob without legal approval or permission.
"It's a public display of disgracing a person or their family by putting a rope around their neck," said Clayborn Benson from the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Milwaukee's Black History Museum.
Historically, lynching was targeted acts against Black people in the 19th and 20th centuries. Benson says it didn't just take place in the South, but the North too, and it occurred in many forms.
Benson says there are lynchings in Milwaukee's history dating back to the 1860's. In modern day, he says the same kind of racially motivated acts are still occurring. "I think it's about control more than it's about...punishing somebody for the wrong they may or may not have done," said Benson.
The newly signed Emmett Till Anti-Lynching law is named after the Chicago boy who was killed while visiting family in Mississippi in 1955. Till was accused of whistling at a white woman. His killers were acquitted by an all-white jury and were never punished, despite admitting to the murder later.
Under the new law, offenders could face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty of a hate crime resulting in death or serious injury.
"I hope the law never has to be used," said Milele A. Coggs, Alderwoman for Milwaukee's District 6. In the past, the city of Milwaukee has supported anti-lynching legislation.
"My hope is that it just creates a greater awareness both here in Wisconsin as well as across the nation that behavior that is motivated by hate and racial hate will not be tolerated," said Alderwoman Coggs.
Since 1900, there have been more than 200 failed attempts to pass anti-lynching laws. Benson believes the racial unrest of 2020 finally helped make a difference.