Senate Resolution 39 – Apology for Lynching (2005)

In 2005 Senator Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana and George Allen (R) of Virginia sponsored a bill in the United States Senate offering an apology to the victims of lynchings and their descendants for the failure to enact anti-lynching legislation.  The bill passed by voice vote although initially 20 out of 100 senators declined to sign on as co-sponsors.  After the resolution was approved by voice vote 8 of the 20 hold-outs made the decision to add their names. Between 1882-1968 more than 200 anti-lynching bills made their way to Congress (including the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill which passed in 1921, 1922, and 1923 in the House).  Many of the students I teach in a course on the origins of the Jim Crow South are stunned to learn that 12% of US senators refused to co-sponsor this bill.  A word cloud of the resolution makes it clear that the language was not opaque.  The words “lynching,” “victims,” and “anti-lynching” particularly stand out.

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