- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Senate will apologize to the descendants of lynching victims tomorrow for its failure to pass anti-lynching legislation, which was first introduced in Congress 104 years ago.

Sens. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, and George Allen, Virginia Republican, drafted the formal resolution for the apology, which the Senate is expected to unanimously approve and which the two hope all 100 senators will sign. It would be the first such apology extended to blacks from Congress.

“There have been close to 5,000 lynchings in America, and it is, I think, a form of American terrorism that we must address,” Mrs. Landrieu said. “This is the final chapter on this piece of history.”

She said she was inspired to draft the apology by the book “Without Sanctuary,” which depicts in pictures and words the history of lynchings in America.

“I think it is better late than never, and I’m pleased they are doing it,” said Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mr. Allen said the history of Senate opposition to anti-lynching bills was “inexcusable.”

“It would have helped law enforcement, and it would have sent a message that we deplore these acts,” he said. “Political leaders have to stand up against this type of ultimate discrimination against people.”

Congress first addressed the issue in 1901 with a bill by Rep. George H. White, North Carolina Democrat, which would have made lynching a federal crime. The House failed to pass the measure.

The House between 1920 and 1940 passed strong anti-lynching measures — in 1922, 1937, and 1940 — but a group of senators blocked the bills through filibusters and other delaying tactics.

From 1922 to 1968, nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in the Senate, but none passed.

Despite the acknowledgement of the deplorable actions of senators who blocked past legislation, Mrs. Landrieu and Mr. Allen said they do not think any senator plans to broach the subject of the Russell Senate Office Building.

Former Sen. Richard B. Russell, Georgia Democrat, staged a filibuster for six days to block an anti-lynching bill in 1935. The action was successful in preventing a vote on the bill, but that did not stop Congress from naming its oldest office building in honor of Mr. Russell in 1972, a year after his death.

Mr. Bond said that act was a slap in the face to blacks and should be rectified.

“There are many, many names from American history that we knew at the time should not have received the recognition and praise that they did, and his name is one of them,” he said.

“I wish they would remove it, but I don’t have any hope that a majority of the present members would even come close to considering that.”

Preceding tomorrow’s vote on the resolution, a luncheon organized by Mrs. Landrieu and Mr. Allen will be held to honor lynching victims and surviving family members, including James Cameron, 91, the oldest known living survivor of an attempted lynching in America; Simeon Wright, the cousin of lynching victim Emmett Till; and Doria Lee Johnson, the great-granddaughter of lynching victim Andrew Crawford.


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