Newswire: Congress passes historic Anti-Lynching legislation

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent

Lynching in a small Southern town

Sixty-five years after the horrific lynching of teenager Emmett Till, the U.S. House of Representatives have finally passed H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act. The legislation would make lynching a crime under federal law.
“Today, under the leadership of Representative Bobby Rush (IL-01), and three other Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the House of Representatives finally passed legislation to address the heinous act of lynching by making it a federal crime. The first bill to outlaw lynching was introduced in 1900,” members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote in a statement.
“Lynching was a brutal, violent, and often savage public spectacle. They were advertised in newspapers, memorialized in postcards, and souvenirs were made from the victims’ remains,” the CBC, which is chaired by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif), added.
A 1930 editorial in Raleigh News and Observer noted the delight of the audience witnessing a lynching as “Men joked loudly at the sight of the bleeding body; girls giggled as the flies fed on the blood that dripped from the Negro’s nose.”
“Make no mistake: lynching is domestic terrorism. It is a tool that was used during the 256 years of slavery to terrorize enslaved African Americans and discourage them from rebelling,” Bass said.
“It was used for almost 100 years after the end of slavery to terrorize free African Americans and discourage them from exercising their rights as citizens. Even today, we hear reports of nooses being left on college campuses and workplaces to threaten and harass Black people,” she stated.
Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Tim Scott (R-SC) applauded the passage of the bill, which is identical to anti-lynching legislation the three introduced in the Senate last year.
That legislation unanimously passed the Senate. “Today brings us one step closer to finally reconciling a dark chapter in our nation’s history,” Booker stated in a release. “Lynchings were used to terrorize, marginalize, and oppress black communities – to kill human beings to sow fear and keep black communities in a perpetual state of racial subjugation.”
He continued:
“If we do not reckon with this dark past, we cannot move forward. But today we are moving forward. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Rush, the House has sent a clear, indisputable message that lynching will not be tolerated. It has brought us closer to reckoning with our nation’s history of racialized violence. Now the Senate must again pass this bill to ensure that it finally becomes law.”
Harris called lynchings racially-motivated acts of violence and terror that represent a dark and despicable chapter of our nation’s history. “They were acts against people who should have received justice but did not. With this bill, we can change that by explicitly criminalizing lynching under federal law,” noted Harris, who suspended her presidential campaign late last year.
“I applaud Congressman Rush and the House of Representatives for speaking the truth about our past and making it clear that these acts must never happen again without serious and swift consequence and accountability. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support this bill’s passage,” she said.
Scott added that it’s essential to show that hate will not win while Rush compared lynching to the French use of the guillotine, the Roman Empire’s use of crucifixion, and the British use of drawing and quartering as a tool of terrorism.
“And, for too long now, a federal law against lynching has remained conspicuously silent,” Rush noted. “Today, we will send a strong message that violence – and race-based violence, in particular – has no place in American society. I am immensely grateful to Senators Harris, Booker, and Scott for working with my office on this landmark piece of legislation, and I look forward to it being quickly passed in the Senate and immediately sent to the President to be signed into law.”
Bass said the last known lynching was as recent as 25 years ago and only then, for the first time in the nation’s history, was the perpetrator convicted and executed. “This is an awful part of our history, but it is our history – our American history – and it is important for us to all know and remember it, especially now that we are facing a resurgence of hate crimes in America under the presidency of Donald J. Trump,” Bass stated.
“Now there is the National Memorial for Peace and Justice to document the known history of lynching and the many reasons why Black people were lynched, such as for making eye contact with a white person, not moving to the other side of the street, or spitting in public,” she said.
Further, Bass added that the bill makes “a long-overdue change to our laws by finally addressing the issue of lynching for the thousands of African Americans who suffered this heinous fate and the countless more we’ll never know.”

Newswire: The historic Chicago Defender among Black media icons scaling back, others possibly closing

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Richmond Free Press

Front page of Chicago Defender

( – It has been a rough few days for the Black media.
First, Ebony magazine and its sister publication, JET magazine, may be closing their doors for good.
And then the publisher of the storied Chicago Defender newspaper announced last week that it will no longer publish a print version.
In announcing the move to digital-only beginning Thursday, July 11, Real Times Media CEO Hiram E. Jackson said last Friday that the newspaper has made significant investment in digital media because of changes in the publishing landscape.
Jackson noted the Defender currently prints 16,000 newspapers. He said the newspaper reaches at least 10 times more people on its digital platform.
Jackson said Real Times’ other newspapers, the Michigan Chronicle and the New Pittsburgh Courier, will continue to offer a print version.
The newspaper was founded in 1905 by Robert S. Abbott and reached the peak of its influence at mid-century when it was a frequent critic of racial inequities in the nation’s Southern states.
The Defender delivered news of monumental events — the funeral of Emmett Till, the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the election of President Obama — but also of everyday life for Black Americans.
Jackson said the decision was an economic one. Newspapers throughout the industry have seen a decline in print advertising and readers turning to the internet.
Black newspapers often are an afterthought when it comes to advertising dollars, Jean Patterson Boone, publisher of the Richmond Free Press told the New York Times.
Regardless of the financial challenges, the Richmond Free Press, which has a weekly circulation of 35,000 and a draw of around 130,000 readers, has no intention of going the way of The Defender and eliminating its print edition.
“We’re a miracle,” Mrs. Boone told the New York Times. “We are a miracle and most black newspapers
are a miracle.”
The National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade organization for African-American-owned newspapers, currently counts 218 such publications across 40 states that attract 22.2 million readers between print and online each week.
Although the country may look different now, the enduring challenges of racism make the black press just as essential now, said Benjamin Chavis Jr., NNPA’s president and chief executive. The Greene County Democrat, weekly newspaper is a
Member of the NNPA.
As for Ebony and JET, former employees of the company took to Twitter last week using the hashtag #EbonyOwes to air their frustrations with the company, as it has fired all of its employees with little to no notice.
According to USA Today, members of Ebony magazine’s digital team say they’ve been fired and haven’t received their final paychecks in the latest controversy to hit the struggling publication that has chronicled black life in America for decades.
Michael Gibson, co-chairman and founder of Austin, Texas-based Clear View Group, which owns Ebony, declined to comment to USA TODAY on the digital team’s dismissal, citing a “policy of not commenting on any employment practices or issues.”
The Chicago Tribune previously reported how Ebony was being pressed by the National Writers Union to pay more than $200,000 it alleged the magazine owed to freelance writers who contributed stories back in 2017. The drama sparked the hashtag #EbonyOwes on Twitter.
According to a report on, the magazine’s previous owner, Johnson Publishing Co., filed for bankruptcy liquidation in April, which Ebony said would not affect its operations.
“EBONY Media Operations, LLC brands, which include EBONY magazine,, digital magazine JET and and its related businesses, have viably operated independently of Johnson Publishing Company dba/ Fashion Fair Cosmetics (JPC) since Black-owned Ebony Media Operations, LLC (EMO) purchased the media assets of JPC in 2016. Black-owned investment firm CVG Group LLC assisted in the formation of EMO,” a statement read. “EMO is unaffected by the Chapter 7 bankruptcy announcement regarding the dissolution of JPC. EMO is not able to comment further and is not familiar with the facts or events of the JPC business.”
The first issue of the iconic magazine hit stands 74 years ago and took the industry by storm. Founded by John H. Johnson in November 1945, the black-owned publication has always strived to address African-American issues, personalities and interests in a positive and self-affirming manner.
Timeless editions of Ebony featured some of the biggest stars in black America, including issues covered by Diana Ross, Sidney Poitier, as well as President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama.

Emmett Till bill reauthorized


Will it spur more of an effort to solve civil rights murders than the original legislation

By Frederick Lowe

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from


 Emmett Till

( – President Barack Obama has signed legislation permanently reauthorizing a law that expands prosecution of civil rights-era murders after an earlier version of the law failed miserably to live up to expectations.

The President, Dec. 16, signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Bill of 2007, which expands the authority of the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate and prosecute race-based murders.

The legislation is named in honor of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy who was kidnapped and murdered on Aug. 28, 1955,  in Money, Miss., by Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam for allegedly whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a White woman.

The teenager’s beaten and horribly mutilated body, tied to a heavy industrial fan, floated to the surface of the Tallahatchie River, where it was discovered by two boys swimming in the river.

An all-White male jury found Milam and Bryant not guilty, but the two admitted killing Till in a Jan. 24, 1956 interview with Look magazine for which they were paid. Bryant operated a store and it went out business after blacks launched a boycott.

The current Emmett Till legislation was scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2017, the end of the government’s fiscal year.  The legislation was passed in 2008, after being introduced by Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement. Lewis’ bill limited investigations to violations that occurred before 1970.

The original legislation failed to live up to its promise, according to a U. S. Senate review of the law. There has been only one successful prosecution as result of the bill. The Senate also noted other challenges such as the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy and a pre-1994 five-year statute of limitations on federal criminal civil rights charges.

“Ultimately, a DOJ report stated that it is unlikely that any of the remaining cases would be prosecuted,” the Senate reported. The Cold Case Justice Initiative of the DOJ last year closed 115 of the 126 cases on their list, often without pursuing potential witnesses or victims’ family members, the Senate said.

Last year, civil right activists testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, that the DOJ and the FBI have not done enough to solve the murders of civil rights workers in the 1940s, 50s and 60s despite the Emmett Till legislation.

The murders of black men, women and children have been extensive and almost no perpetrators have been brought to justice.

The Equal Justice Initiatve, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., reported that nearly 4,000 black men, black women and black children were lynched between 1877 and 1950. Many lynching were extrajudicial but others were either organized or encouraged by law enforcement officials.

Congress passed the expanded Emmett Till legislation on Dec. 13th. The legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate bill, S. 2854, and House bill, H. R. 5067, require the Department of Justice to reopen and review cases closed without an in-person investigation conducted by the DOJ or the FBI. The DOJ also must establish a task force to conduct a thorough investigation of Emmett Till Act Cases.

“Perhaps most significantly to us is that the FBI will be required to travel to the communities to do their investigative work, not simply read over old files from a desk in Washington and make a couple phone calls,” said Janis McDonald, co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative, which is based at Syracuse University.

The DOJ must indicate the number of cases referred by a civil rights organization, an institution of higher education or a state or local law enforcement agency.  The bill also requires the DOJ to report the number of cases that resulted in federal charges, the date charges were filed and whether DOJ declined to prosecute or participate in an investigation of a referred case and any activity on reopened cases.

In addition, the law enforcement agencies must coordinate information sharing, hold accountable perpetrators or accomplices in unsolved civil rights murders and comply with Freedom Information Act requests.

The legislation also allows DOJ to award grants to civil rights organizations, institutions of higher education and other eligible entities for expenses associated with investigating murders under the Emmett Till Act.

One major issue facing this legislation is the extent to which it will be implemented in a U. S. Justice Department headed by Trump Attorney General nominee, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who did not vote for this and other civil rights legislation during his Senatorial career.