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S. 3178 (115th): Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018


Lynching is extrajudicial murder usually committed by a group of people or a mob, consisting of hanging somebody by a noose or beating someone to death. It’s considered among the most gruesome ways to murder someone. Lynching is primarily associated with whites committing the act against black people in the post-Civil War south.

More than 4,000 black people were lynched between 1877 and 1950. The white perpetrators, if they faced criminal charges at all, were usually acquitted.

What the bill does

The Senate’s three African-American senators, across both parties, have joined together with House colleagues to introduce the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act [S. 3178 and H.R. 6086].

The primary Senate sponsor, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and the primary House sponsor, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL1), introduced it in June.

What supporters say

Supporters say that the legislation officially criminalizes one of the most brutal crimes, which should have been banned more than a century ago but which nonetheless was carried out on thousands of Americans.

“Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our history, and we must acknowledge that, lest we repeat it,” Harris said in a press release. “From 1882 to 1986 there have been 200 attempts that have failed to get Congress to pass federal anti-lynching legislation. It’s time for that to change.”

“Lynching has never been classified as a federal crime, despite the many attempts over the years,” Rep. Rush said in a separate press release. “While many may argue that lynching has been relegated to history, you only need to look at the events in Charlottesville last year to be reminded that the racist and hateful sentiments that spurred these abhorrent crimes are still prevalent in today’s American society.”

What opponents say

GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any outright statements of opposition from members of Congress. (Unsurprisingly, given the terrible optics of such a move.)

Odds of passage

The House bill has attracted 36 cosponsors, all Democrats.

The Senate bill has attracted 24 cosponsors, of whom 23 are Democrats or Democratic-affiliated independents, plus one Republican: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the Senate’s lone black Republican. In other words, no white Republicans have cosponsored this bill.

The legislation awaits a possible vote in the Senate or House Judiciary Committees.

Last updated Jul 14, 2018. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jun 28, 2018.


Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018

This bill specifies that an offense involving lynching is a criminal civil rights violation. A violator is subject to criminal penalties—a prison term, a fine, or both.