Copeland anti-lynching rider amendments

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Anti-Lynching Legislation

Major legislation:



The Copeland anti-lynching rider amendments were two legislative efforts to enact federal anti-lynching law by attaching the text of the Wagner–Van Nuys Act to New Deal legislation. The Act, stalled in 1937 as the U.S. Senate took up the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill (known as the court packing plan), was proposed by New York conservative Democratic senator Royal Copeland as a rider to the Interstate Commerce Act[1][2] and a wage bill.[3]

The New York Times commented on the first rider that it "divided Democratic forces In Congress."[1]

Whether a legitimate effort at enacting civil rights legislation or more a game of political football, the Copeland riders united Republicans and the minority of pro–civil rights Democrats, temporarily exacerbating a fracture within the New Deal Coalition—had the rider successfully been attached to the New Deal–related bills, Southern Democrats would subsequently prevent the passage of the main legislation altogether to avoid the enactment of civil rights provisions. Northern Democratic senator Robert F. Wagner, a leading Senate sponsor of anti-lynching legislation in the 1930s, objected to the first rider[4] along with Frederick Van Nuys,[5][6] though both voted against tabling the second one.[7]

Both rider amendments failed to pass; the first, proposed as an attachment to the freight bill, was tabled on July 26 by a 41–34 vote,[6] and the second rider five days later by a 46–39 tally.[7] In both votes, a large portion of Northern Democrats contributed to the majority needed by their Southern counterparts to kill Copeland's anti-lynching rider proposals.

The Wagner–Van Nuys Act was ultimately filibustered to death in early 1938.


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