Federal anti-lynching laws in the United States had been proposed over 200 times though never adopted until 2022.
1920s: Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill
- For a more detailed treatment, see Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill.
The first time an anti-lynching bill passed the House was on January 26, 1922. The Dyer bill passed the House 230–120, with 221 Republicans, 8 Democrats, and 1 Socialist voting for, while 17 Republicans and 103 Democrats voted against. 95% of Republicans, 47% of Northern Democrats, and 1% of Southern Democrats voted for the measure, with Ben Johnson (D–Ky.) standing alone among them.
Anti-Lynching Bill of 1934–35
- For a more detailed treatment, see Costigan–Wagner Act.
The next serious effort was the Costigan–Wagner Act proposed during the New Deal era, also known as the Anti-Lynching Bill of 1934 or Anti-Lynching Bill of 1935. The sponsors were Senators Edward Costigan of Colorado and Robert Wagner of New York. The bill met the same fate as the Dyer bill at the hands of Democrats and was killed without having a definitive up or down vote. When it was first introduced in 1934, Democratic Majority Leader Joseph T. Robinson ignored Costigan's request to take it up, and when unanimous consent was asked before the chamber, Southern Democrats Ellison D. Smith and Kenneth McKellar blocked the motion.
When later reintroduced in 1935, a series of adjourning motions were plotted by Robinson to indefinitely stall the legislation; on May 1, after political trading materialized, several senators (including Harry Truman) switched sides towards the anti–civil rights forces and voted to adjourn the chamber, effectively killing the Act.
Anti-Lynching Bill of 1937
- For a more detailed treatment, see Gavagan–Van Nuys–Wagner Act.
Proponents tried again in 1937 with the Gavagan–Wagner Act, Rep. Joseph Gavagan (D–NY) being the new sponsor. This bill passed 277–120, with 189 Democrats, 75 Republicans, 8 Progressives, and 5 Farmer-Labors voting for and 117 Democrats and 3 Republicans voting against. This bill once again was killed by Democrats in the Senate. Different from the bill's reception in the House during 1922, there were a majority of Democrats voting in favor as the Republican presence was greatly reduced during the New Deal; thus, many Northern Democrats are in Congress and voting for the measure. Yet 96% of Republicans voted for the measure, while 92% of Northern Democrats did so. Only 6% of Southern Democrats voted for it.
Copeland rider amendments
- For a more detailed treatment, see Copeland anti-lynching rider amendments.
In late July 1937, there was a Senate effort by New York conservative Democrat Royal S. Copeland to add the full text of one of the anti-lynching bills as a rider to a train-limit bill; the majority of Democrats, including a significant number from the North, voted to table it.
- For a more detailed treatment, see Gavagan–Fish Anti-Lynching Bill.
The final effort during the New Deal Coalition was in 1940. The bill that year, known as the Gavagan–Fish bill, with conservative Rep. Hamilton Fish, III (R–NY), as co-sponsor, passed 252–131, with 109 Democrats, 140 Republicans, 2 Progressives, and 1 American Laborer voting for and 123 Democrats and 8 Republicans voting against. The Democratic vote flipped from favorable to unfavorable due to the 1938 midterms, in which Republicans regained some of their strength in the North. Republican support stayed roughly where it was at 95% while Northern Democrat support went down to 84%. The Southern Democrat percent support fell to 1%, with only Edward Creal (D–Ky.) voting in favor.
- On Ideology and Anti-Lynching Legislation. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- TO PASS H. R. 13.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- 67th-congress.pdf. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved August 18, 2021.
- 67th House(1921-23) Votes. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved August 18, 2021.
- Anti-Lynching Legislation Renewed. US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- Dyer Anti-lynching Bill. The Walter White Project. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- Greenbaum, Fred (1967). "The Anti-Lynching Bill of 1935: The Irony of "Equal Justice—Under Law"," p. 76–77. Internet Archive. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
- "The Anti-Lynching Bill of 1935," p. 83.
- TO PASS H. R. 1507, AN ANTI-LYNCHING BILL.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- Railway Age, Vol. 103 (1937). Senate Passes Train-Limit Bill, p. 133. Google Books. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
- TO TABLE AN AMENDMENT TO S. 69, THE INTERSTATE COMMERCE ACT. THE AMEND. OFFERED BY SENATOR COPELAND WHICH WOULD HAVE ADDED HOUSE BILL 1507, THE ANTILYNCHING BILL, TO S. 69, A BILL LIMITING THE SIZE OF TRAINS IN INTERSTATE COMMERCE.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- TO TABLE AN AMENDMENT TO S. 2475. OFFERED BY SENATOR COPELAND WHICH WOULD HAVE ADDED THE ANTILYNCHING BILL AS PERFECTED BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY TO THE PENDING LEGISLATION.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- TO PASS H.R. 801, A BILL TO MAKE LYNCHING A FEDERAL CRIME.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- Little, Becky (January 31, 2019). Why FDR Didn’t Support Eleanor Roosevelt’s Anti-Lynching Campaign. HISTORY. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- Masur, Louis P. (December 28, 2020). Why it took a century to pass an anti-lynching law. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- Magness, Phillip W. (July 31, 2020). How FDR Killed Federal Anti-Lynching Legislation. American Institute for Economic Research. Retrieved June 8, 2021.