Congress passes Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act The amended bill will attempt to bring closure to the families of victims of racially-charged crimes
For decades, U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ life has been centered on the protection of African-Americans. As a young man growing up in Alabama and attending segregated schools, Lewis was drawn to the civil rights movement and the group of leaders who continued to fight for justice and equality.
Lewis followed the message of Martin Luther King Jr. and after being inspired by the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, Lewis secured his own spot in the movement while participating in sit-in demonstrations, volunteering for “freedom rides” and being beaten and arrested for defying the South’s Jim Crow segregation laws.
After years of standing up to injustice, it seems fitting that Lewis would be the one to successfully become a co-sponsor of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which was created to “make the deputy chief responsible for investigating and prosecuting violations of criminal civil rights statutes in which the alleged violation occurred before January 1, 1970 and resulted in death,” according to a summary written by the Congressional Research Service.
On Dec. 10, the last session of the 114th Congress led to the passing of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016, which includes amendments to the original bill passed in 2007.
According to Lewis’s website, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016 “represents a critical opportunity to right these wrongs committed, primarily against African Americans, but also against people of diverse backgrounds.” The reauthorized bill will attend to the needs of victims’ families, seek out witnesses to unsolved crimes that occurred no later than Dec. 31, 1979, and will work to build the collaboration between the FBI, Department of Justice, state and local law enforcement to ensure that cold cases are pursued.
The act, known as H.R. 923, was first introduced by Lewis in February 2007, received a 422-2 vote and adopted by the U.S. House in June 2007. A year later, the Senate unanimously passed the bill and after it was signed by President George W. Bush in October 2008, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act became public law.
“When this bill was signed into law, family members, academics, historians, lawyers, advocates began working to develop a full accounting for these long-standing, gross human and civil rights atrocities,” Lewis said in a statement. “The reauthorization passed by Congress is a response to their appeals to make the law a better tool in their quest for justice. I am very pleased that Congress has passed this legislation and I look forward to the signature of President Barack Obama.”