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U.S. lawmakers introduce Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 11:36 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Monday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it was closing the Emmett Till criminal case again with no charges.

The teenager was killed in 1955 after allegedly whistling at a white woman.

Investigators say they couldn’t prove that one of the key witnesses lied in the case. Still, the murder of a 14-year-old boy more than 65 years ago is making waves in legislation created today.

The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act was discussed in the House Judiciary meeting. If passed, it would make lynchings a hate crime.

“I know about lynchings as well. I know through history but unfortunately, it happened in my community of Memphis,” said U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen.

Cohen says 30 known lynchings happened in Memphis, including the People’s grocery incident that led to a mob murdering three Black men in the late 1800s.

Almost all of the perpetrators involved in documented lynchings in Tennessee have never been brought to justice just like the Emmett Till case.

“By educating Tennesseans about what happened truthfully, hopefully, that will create an awareness, elevate the consciousness of our community base,” said Lamont Turner, president of Tennesseans for Historical Justice.

Tennesseans for Historical Justice is a non-profit operated by volunteers and was created to uncover the injustices and racial violence that occurred in Tennessee’s past.

One of the organization’s biggest successes came in 2018 with the reopening of the Elbert Williams case, the first known NAACP worker killed fighting for civil rights.

The U.S. Justice Department closed the case the same year, citing none of the known potential suspects are still alive.

However, Turner says their organization’s work is still important.

“Because what happened in the past still lingers today because it was never dealt with,” said Turner. “So, we are a new generation trying to deal with it in our own way, in a relevant way. So, when you bring up cases, such as Ahmaud Arbery, the recent convictions that went down, that’s a modern-day lynching and that can happen today. It happened in 2020.”

Turner says community conversations about racial injustices are his organization’s primary goal today.

For some legislators, it’s putting laws in place now to make sure we don’t repeat mistakes of the past.

The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act passed out of the Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday morning. and will now be considered by the full House of Representatives.

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