Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.


White men and boys pose beneath the body of Lige Daniels shortly after he was lynched on August 3, 1920, in Center, Texas, one of this country's over 4,000 lynchings. Photo from Equal Justice Initiative

Lynching Is Bad, Finally Decides Country That Did It Over 4,000 Times For 100 Blood-Soaked Years

Abby Zimet

Over 400 years after trafficking African slaves to the New World and through a century of nearly 200 failed efforts during seven U.S. presidential administrations, Congress has at long last rendered it a hate crime to hang from the limb of a tree until dead the overwhelmingly innocent African-American descendants of those slaves. Named for the 14-year-old black boy savagely murdered 67 years ago for allegedly whistling at a white woman, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act makes lynching a federal hate crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison. It passed the Senate Monday night by almost-unheard-of unanimous consent, and now goes to Biden to be signed. Not long ago, the grotesquerie of lynching was such a popular crowdpleaser that enterprising capitalists sold postcards of the events: "Token of A Great Day." The Equal Justice Initiative has documented at least 4,081 lynchings in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950; the NAACP, looking even closer to the here and now, reports at least 4,743 lynchings, with almost all black victims, between 1882 and 1968. Still, it's taken over 100 years for America to agree black lives should matter at least enough to stop the grisly carnage.

The first anti-lynching bill was introduced in 1900 by North Caroline's Rep. George Henry White, the body's only Black lawmaker; it failed to get out of committee. In 1918, after St. Louis race riots killed up to 150 Black Americans, GOP (yes) Missouri Rep. Leonidas Dyer tried again; her bill was filibustered in the Senate by ole boys arguing the "good negroes of the South" didn't need such protections. After years of efforts stalled by "states rights" fans, the most recent anti-lynching bill passed the House in 2020 after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery; it was stopped by Rand Paul of Kentucky - 205 lynchings - who nonsensically claimed it could be used against someone causing "minor bruising." Having added the shiny new words “death or serious bodily injury,” black Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Tim Scott introduced the new bill in June. Its passage was hailed by Illinois Rep. and former civil rights activist Bobby Rush for correcting the "abhorrent injustice" of a "uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has for decades been used to maintain the white hierarchy" - and to allow perpetrators, including Emmett Till's killers, to "get away with murder time and time again." Hallelujah, said many, and we agree. Still, that's one goddamn long arc of the moral universe, and grisly evidence abounds Cory Booker's "dark chapter in our history" is far from over.
"The past is never dead. It's not even past." - Faulkner

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Trump Says Mar-a-Lago 'Under Siege, Raided, and Occupied' by FBI

"They even broke into my safe!" the former president claimed as the U.S. Justice Department declined to comment.

Common Dreams staff ·

New Ad Against Herschel Walker Features Ex-Wife's Domestic Violence Accusations

A leader at the anti-Trump group behind the advertisement targeting the U.S. Senate candidate said that "our campaign is built around the voices of Georgia Republicans who know that he's unfit for office."

Jessica Corbett ·

Michigan AG Urges Probe of Alleged GOP-Led Effort to Break Into Voting Machines

"We must denounce the Big Lie and those who refuse to uphold the will of the people in our elections," said one democracy defender.

Brett Wilkins ·

Hopes Rise for Return to Iran Nuclear Deal Destroyed by Trump

"We stand five minutes or five seconds from the finish line," said one negotiator, who added that "three or four issues" that are "sensitive for Iranians and Americans" remain to be resolved.

Brett Wilkins ·

Sinema Received Over $500K From Private Equity Before Shielding Industry From Tax Hikes

"Remember the days when taking half a million bucks from an industry, and then passing legislation that only benefits that industry, while passing the costs onto everyone else, would be called corruption?" asked one critic. "Today it's just lobbying as usual."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo