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Perspective: A justice long denied

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
Wikimedia Commons
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

According to the Equal Justice Initiative, between 1877 and 1950 there are more than 4,400 documented lynchings in America; more than 70% of those lynchings were of African American men, women, and children. It is important to note that White folks, Mexicans, Jews, and others were also lynched, typically for supporting civil rights. This was the lynching era.

Lynching, or the public killing of an individual who has not received any due process, was the primary form of racial terror across the country. There were 57 in Illinois! Victims were tortured, shot, hung, castrated, and burned alive, oftentimes as public spectacle (Google lynching photos but know it is disturbing). Very few people were brought to justice for participating in lynchings and oftentimes law enforcement did nothing to stop a lynching.

In 1900, Representative George Henry White, a Black representative from North Carolina, introduced the first anti-lynching legislation. It failed. Several attempts had been made after, but they all failed. Had a federal law passed, that would have made it possible for the federal government to investigate and prosecute lynchings rather than leaving it to self-serving, racist states and local governments. Thousands of lives could have been saved, across racial lines.

On March 7th, Congress finally passed an anti-lynching law, the Emmit Till Anti-Lynching Act, bringing an end to a vicious, inhumane, racist era, despite being 122 years late. Like Martin Luther King said, justice deferred is justice denied. Finally, Congress will ensure that justice from racial terror may no longer be denied. Hopefully.

I am Joseph Flynn, and that is my perspective.

Joseph Flynn is the executive director for equity and inclusion in the Division of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and an associate professor of curriculum and instruction.