Here is something I didn’t know…
From 1882 to 1968, close to 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress. Only Three passed the House and those were later filibustered in the Senate and never received a vote. Seven presidents between 1890 and 1952 petitioned Congress to pass a federal law but none was ever passed.
A lynching is when a mob (usually a group of white people) kills someone, (usually a black person ) especially by hanging, for an alleged offense and done without legal authority.
I’m supposing that the mob felt that there was safety in numbers because since there was no federal law prohibiting mass murder of this type (with the mass being on the opposite side of the murder equation) so it was left up to the states to enforce or prosecute said lynchings…which they usually did not…even when photos of the perpetrators were taken and made available. (usually by the perpetrators themselves!)
I became curious about this subject while watching the new Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts (oddly enough this was never a topic of discussion in public school even though lynchings were still occurring and were “legal” in my lifetime)
Anyway, anti-lynching bills came to the fore during the years of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency and although he is well know as a social reformer President Roosevelt did not support the federal anti-lynching bills because he feared that support would cost him Southern votes during his many elections. (perhaps “feared” is the wrong word here) In any event he apparently believed that he could accomplish more for more people simply by getting re-elected and in 1939 he created the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department and directed them to start prosecutions to combat lynching. How did they do? They failed to win any convictions until 1946.
Things apparently got so bad that after WWII and during the cold war even the Soviet Union (of all unions) criticized the United States for the frequency of lynchings of black people and later in 1951 the famous actor Paul Robeson and the Civil Rights Congress argued at the United Nations that the U.S. government was guilty of genocide under Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention because it failed to act against lynchings… The United Nations of course…took no action.
But then the FBI helped…by declaring people like Albert Einstein to be communist sympathizers for joining Mr. Robeson’s crusade. J. Edgar Hoover (everyone’s heard of him) even went so far as to direct more attention to investigations of civil rights groups for communist connections than to Ku Klux Klan activities…like lynching.
So when exactly did the United States Congress pass legislation making lynchings a federal crime in America?
Amazingly, the answer is: Never
But On June 13, 2005, not Congress, but the U.S. Senate, formally apologized for its failure in the early 20th century, “when it was most needed”, to enact a Federal anti-lynching law… and by a voice vote no less (not a roll call)…I wonder why?
Thankfully people as a whole, or groups, have pretty much decided that lynchings are no longer in vogue and so we don’t have… any? or… as many? anymore… but can you imagine what must have been going through the minds of the protesters in Furguson Missouri while they were staring into the massed weapons of the police’s armored vehicles and automatic weapons following the shooting of Michael Brown?
Weren’t the police just daring them to go ahead and try something that night? To see what they might get? I’m sure the police had absolutely no doubt what they, the police, might get should they be “forced” to fire upon a goaded and angry mob of militant protesters…Off…does anyone doubt that?
Racism is not dead in this country. Dormant in most places, maybe, but dead? How could it be? Who has really tried to kill it or seriously eradicate it? I mean really… until it was just snuffed out…you know, like Native Americans at Wounded Knee… seriously, who?