June 14, 2005

Senate apologizes for decades of lynchings in US

The US Senate on Monday formally apologized for decades of inaction on legislation that would have outlawed lynching against blacks and others years sooner. The practice was used in this country well into the 20th Century, while lawmakers - both Republican and Democrat - across the nation turned a blind eye.

Nearly 200 descendants of lynching victims, as well as 91-year-old James Cameron, Marion, Ind., who is thought to be the only living survivor of a lynching attempt, listened from the visitors' gallery to speeches about what Sen. George Allen, R-Va., described as "the failure of the Senate to take action when action was most needed."

"I came here to bear witness on behalf of my cousin Jimmy," said Janet Langhart Cohen, wife of former Defense Secretary William Cohen and a member of the group that has pushed for the apology.

Her third cousin, 17-year-old Jimmy Gillenwaters, was killed in 1912 by a lynch mob near Bowling Green, Ky.

He was one of 4,743 people killed by mob violence from 1882 to 1968, according to Tuskegee University records. Of those, nearly three-fourths, 3,446, were blacks.

According to university records, lynchings reached a peak of 230 in 1892, but they were prevalent well into the 1930s. Twenty lynchings were reported in 1935. During that time, nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress, and three passed the House. Seven presidents from 1890 to 1952 petitioned Congress to pass a federal law.

While I'm very happy that this took place, the little cynical voice inside my head wonders quietly whether the Reparations lobby (i.e., the "instant payday" crowd) will use this to help their attempts to punch that instant federal cash register button.

Posted by mhking at June 14, 2005 11:11 PM

Lynching may have been illegal but MURDER wasn't. So what's the big deal? Will there be some sort of reparations involved?

Posted by: MrNoGood at June 15, 2005 12:19 PM

correction...Lynching may have been LEGAL but murder wasn't.

Posted by: MrNoGood at June 15, 2005 12:20 PM

Most, if not all of the legislation that was blocked, was blocked by Democratic filibuster. I think my family were the only Republicans in our small southern town from the 1920's into the '60's, and everytime we(which included a number of local Democrats)tried to get more money for the local black school or get more sports facilities for them, it was Democratic politicians that blocked it.
If this bunch of hypocrits in the Senate feel they have to apologize for something they had no part in, they should at least explain why the legislation failed.

Posted by: Mell at June 15, 2005 12:29 PM

An apology given by the uninvolved to the uninjured on behalf of the unrepentant. Costs them nothing; it should earn them nothing.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at June 16, 2005 01:08 PM
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