1919 May 5

First-Ever National Conference on Lynching Held in New York City


The National Conference on Lynching, which began on this day in New York City, marked the beginning of a decades-long but ultimately unsuccessful campaign for a federal anti-lynching law. An estimated 2,500 people, both African-American and white, attended the three-day conference. Charles Evans Hughes, former Supreme Court Justice and 1916 Republican presidential candidate, was the keynote speaker. On April 1, 1918, Rep. Leonidas Dyer (R–Missouri) had introduced an anti-lynching bill in the House of Representatives.

The conference had some political impact. On April 21, 1921, President Warren G. Harding sent a civil rights message to Congress calling for a federal law that would end “barbaric lynching.” On January 26, 1922, the House of Representatives passed an anti-lynching bill by a vote of 230-119. Republicans provided most of the affirmative votes. In those years, Many Republicans regarded their party as the party of Abraham Lincoln, and were more supported of racial justice than most Democrats. A filibuster led by southern Democrats killed the 1922 anti-lynching bill. Another anti-lynching bill was not introduced until 1934; that bill was sponsored by liberal Democratic Senators.

Congress never passed that bill or any other anti-lynching bill, however. On June 13, 2005, the U.S. Senate issued a formal apology for never passing an anti-lynching bill.

Read about the conference and the summer of racial violence: Cameron McWhirter, Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black Americans (2011)

Learn more about the NAACP anti-lynching campaign: http://www.naacp.org/pages/naacp-history-anti-lynching-bill

Read the 2015 report on the number of lynchings: Equal  Justice Initiative, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror (2015)

Learn more about the Dyer anti-lynching bill: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/dyer-anti-lynching-bill-1922

See the horrors of lynching: Dora Apel and Shawn Smith, Lynching Photographs (2007)

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