By CeLillianne Green
The question of slavery, and whether and when it should end, divided America from its inception, and eventually moved the nation toward Civil War. The dispute reached a peak on Dec. 20, 1860, when South Carolina passed the first Ordinance of Secession from the Union. South Carolina’s secession was followed by the secession of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, and the threat of secession by Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, according to the Library of Congress. Those 11 states formed the Confederate States of America.
This work is a collaboration of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and Capital News Service at the University of Maryland, Morgan State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and the University of Arkansas.
The Civil War started on April 12, 1861, when shots were fired at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The war ended in 1865 with the victory of the United States over the Confederacy. The post-Civil War era was a time when Black Americans were building communities, trying to gain an economic foothold and live as free human beings. Their activities prompted anger and resentment from many white people. What follows is a timeline of some but not all of the violent acts of terrorism against Black Americans after the Civil War, and the U.S. government’s response.
The Reconstruction Era began at the end of the Civil War. It was designed to bring Confederate states back into the Union, and to assure formerly enslaved people had a voice in government at all levels and could participate in voting and the economy.
Dec. 6, 1865
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Slavery and involuntary servitude were abolished except as punishment for conviction of a crime.
Dec. 24, 1865
On Christmas Eve, the Ku Klux Klan, also known as the Klan or the KKK, was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee. It has been described as “America’s first terrorist organization” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC identified “three periods of significant strength” for the Klan in America: the late 19th century, the 1920s and during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Klan resurged in the 1970s, but did not reach its past level of influence.
May 1, 1866
Memphis Massacre. Mobs of white men, led by the police, rampaged through Black neighborhoods, burning 12 schools and four churches, and killing an estimated 46 Black men, women and children. “The first large-scale racial massacre to erupt in the post-Civil War South, the massacre in Memphis played a key role in prompting Congress to enact sweeping changes to federal policies and to constitutional law,” according to the University of Memphis’ “Memories of a Massacre: Memphis in 1866.’’
July 30, 1866
New Orleans Massacre. About 200 formerly enslaved Black men were attacked by a white mob as they peacefully marched in support of a reconvened Louisiana Constitutional Convention “with the goal of extending suffrage toward freedmen, eliminating Black Codes, and pursuing the disenfranchisement of ex-Confederates,” according to the National Park Service’s “‘An Absolute Massacre’ — The New Orleans Slaughter of July 30, 1866.” A posse of white officers, many former Confederate soldiers, shot into the marching crowd, killing an estimated 34 Black people and wounding 119.
July 28, 1868
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States … are citizens. … No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens …; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Sept. 19, 1868
Camilla Massacre. After the Georgia Legislature expelled 28 members because they were at least one-eighth Black, Philip Joiner, one of the expelled Black legislators, led a march from Albany, Georgia, to Camilla. “As marchers entered the courthouse square in Camilla, whites stationed in various storefronts opened fire, killing about a dozen and wounding possibly thirty others,” Lee W. Formwalt wrote in the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
Oct. 25, 1868
St. Bernard Parish Massacre. White men mobilized to stop Black men from voting for Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant for president in the rural community outside New Orleans. “Whites believed that a victory by … Grant, former commander of the Union Army, would pave the way for racial equality, leading to the collapse of economic and political systems that favored whites in the South,” Chris Dier wrote in “Unraveling a Forgotten Massacre in My Louisiana Hometown.” Dier said an estimated 35 to more than 100 Black people were murdered. After the massacre, Grant only received one vote in St. Bernard Parish.
Feb. 3, 1870
The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
May 31, 1870
Congress passed a series of Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871 in response to the Ku Klux Klan’s acts of terror. On this date, the Civil Rights Act of 1870 was enacted to enforce the 15th Amendment. “The act provided criminal penalties for those attempting to prevent African Americans from voting by using or threatening to use violence or engaging in other tactics, such as making threats to terminate a person’s employment or evict them from their home,’’ according to the Federal Judicial Center. “As a result of the act, the criminal jurisdiction of the federal courts was expanded.”
June 22, 1870
Congress created the U.S. Department of Justice with the attorney general as its head. The DOJ’s most important task was “to assure the civil and voting rights of African Americans during Reconstruction … in the former Confederate states,” according to the DOJ. The Department’s “initial mandate was to counter and subdue those groups [such as the Klan] in the South who had been using intimidation and violence to oppose the [13th, 14th, and 15th] Amendments.”
April 20, 1871
In President Grant’s first term, his administration prosecuted the Klan. “There were over 1,000 indictments against Klan members with over 550 convictions,” according to the DOJ. “By late 1871, there were more than 3,000 indictments and 600 more convictions.’’ President Grant signed into law the Enforcement Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, to enforce the 14th Amendment. The act “made it a federal crime to deprive a person of the equal protection of the laws or of equal privileges or immunities under the laws, as well as to use violence or intimidation against a qualified voter for having supported a lawful candidate in a federal election,” according to the Federal Judicial Center.
April 13, 1873
Colfax Massacre. Racial tensions after a hotly contested Louisiana governor’s election in 1872, narrowly won by Republicans, erupted in a pitched battle. White Democrats, the Klan and the Knights of the White Camelia killed an estimated 80-150 Black people, many execution-style with shots to the head, according to David Blight, an African American studies and American studies professor at Yale University. “It was mass murder by any definition,” Blight said in a 2008 lecture. Three convictions resulted for violating the 1870 Enforcement Act, which were appealed to the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Cruikshank.
Nov. 3, 1874
Eufaula Massacre. “In 1870, Black voters helped elect Elias Keils, a white candidate who supported the aims of Reconstruction, to the position of City Court Judge,” according to the Equal Justice Initiative. “Four years later, when Keils ran for re-election, local white residents determined to regain political dominance in the (Alabama) county used terror and intimidation to suppress Black votes, ultimately waging a deadly massacre that left dozens of Black people dead.” At least six Black people were killed, and as many as 70 were wounded, EJI said.
Dec. 7, 1874
Vicksburg Massacre. A white mob attacked and killed Black citizens in Mississippi who “organized a political meeting in support of a duly elected Black sheriff, who had been improperly removed from office,” according to the Equal Justice Initiative. Some estimates say up to 300 Black people were killed.
March 27, 1876
The Supreme Court in U.S. v. Cruikshank reversed the three convictions stemming from the 1873 Colfax Massacre of an estimated 80 to 150 Black people. The ruling said “the 14th Amendment prohibits a State from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; but this adds nothing to the rights of one citizen as against another.” In essence, the 14th Amendment “applied only to state action … not to the actions of individuals,” according to the Federal Judicial Center. Moreover, the effect of “the Cruikshank opinion encouraged violence in the Reconstruction South and is one of several Supreme Court decisions that marked the nation’s retreat from Reconstruction,” according to “The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States.’’
April 24, 1877
The Compromise of 1877 resolved the disputed 1876 presidential election between Democrat Samuel J. Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Democrats agreed to award Hayes the presidency in exchange for his agreement to withdraw federal troops from the South, effectively ending Reconstruction.
The post-Reconstruction Era, a time when lynchings and massacres become more frequent.
March 14, 1891
Eleven Italian immigrants were killed by a mob in New Orleans, egged on by newspaper coverage protesting their acquittal for a murder. The Italian government protested, but the U.S. government said it could not prosecute the murderers because Louisiana had jurisdiction over such crimes. However, Republican President Benjamin Harrison’s administration paid an indemnity of $24,330.90 to the King of Italy. The U.S. indemnity payment was an expression “to the Government of Italy its reprobation and abhorrence of the lynching of Italian subjects in New Orleans,” according to the congressional record. Harrison also asked Congress to pass a law protecting foreigners from lynchings, but Congress declined, marking its first failure to pass a federal anti-lynching law. A year after the lynchings, Harrison issued a proclamation honoring an Italian, Christopher Columbus, to mark the 400th anniversary of his 1492 voyage.
Dec. 6, 1892
President Benjamin Harrison’s annual message to Congress called for anti-lynching legislation. Having agreed to pay an indemnity to the King of Italy for the 1891 lynching of Italians in New Orleans, and having described those lynchings as abhorrent, the frequent and equally abhorrent lynchings of Black people and other people of color was a significant American problem recognized by the president. Harrison described the lynchings of colored people as “a reproach to the community where they occur, and so far as they can be made the subject of Federal jurisdiction the strongest repressive legislation is demanded.”
Nov. 10, 1898
Wilmington Massacre. A coup d’état led by white supremacists resulted in the overthrow of the multiracial government in Wilmington, North Carolina, the death of dozens of Black residents and the burning of Wilmington’s Black newspaper, The Daily Record. The 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Report found the leaders were prominent whites and included “newspaper editors locally and statewide rallied by Josephus Daniels of the Raleigh News and Observer.” The riot resulted in a mass exodus from the once-thriving, predominantly Black city.
Jan. 20, 1900
Rep. George Henry White, R-North Carolina, a Black man, introduced the first bill in Congress to outlaw lynching for American citizens. White’s bill said “citizens of the United States, are entitled to and shall receive protection in their lives from being murdered, tortured, burned to death by any and all organized mobs commonly known as ‘lynching bees.’” The punishment on conviction would have been the same as for treason. The bill did not make it out of the House of Representatives.
Former Massachusetts Attorney General Albert E. Pillsbury wrote “A Brief Inquiry into a Federal Remedy for Lynching.” It served as the legal framework for 20th-century anti-lynching legislation sponsored by legislators, including Sen. George Frisbie Hoar, R-Massachusetts, Rep. Leonidas Dyer, R-Missouri, Sen. Edward Costigan, D-Colorado, and Sen. Robert Wagner, D-New York.
Aug. 14-16, 1908
Springfield Massacre. In the Illinois hometown of Abraham Lincoln, George Richardson, a Black man, was jailed for the alleged rape of a married white woman, according to Smithsonian Magazine. When the mob couldn’t find Richardson, who had been moved out of Springfield for his safety, it responded by destroying a Black business district and a Black neighborhood called the Badlands. The mob, numbering in the thousands, lynched two Black businessmen. “After this second killing, enough Illinois troops arrived in the capital to prevent further mass attacks,” Roberta Senechal wrote in her “Springfield Race Riot of 1908” historical research and narrative. More than 40 Black families whose homes were burned were displaced, according to Senechal.
Feb. 12, 1909
On the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by Black and white activists, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, William English Walling and Mary White Ovington. It was created partially in response to the horrors of lynchings and massacres of Black people, particularly the Springfield Massacre.
The Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP and the nation’s oldest African American publication, was founded. Its first editor was W.E.B. Du Bois, who wrote in his first editorial: “The object of this publication is to set forth those facts and arguments which show the danger of race prejudice, particularly as manifested today toward colored people.” Two years later, in 1912, The Crisis published, with special permission, Albert E. Pillsbury’s “A Brief Inquiry into a Federal Remedy for Lynching.”
July 1-3, 1917
East St. Louis Massacre. A white mob in East St. Louis, Illinois, killed at least 39 and as many as 100 Black people and also burned scores of homes over three days after Black workers were hired to replace striking workers at a local aluminum company, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The massacre presaged the Red Summer of racial violence in 1919.
April 18, 1918
Leonidas C. Dyer, R-Missouri, introduced an anti-lynching bill that became “the blueprint for all subsequent NAACP-backed anti-lynching measures (and) sought to charge lynch mobs with capital murder and to try lynching cases in federal court,” according to the U.S. House of Representatives History, Art & Archives. Among other provisions, the legislation mandated jail time and fines for local officials who turned over prisoners to a mob or who did not try to prevent lynchings.
1919 – 1923
A wave of lynchings and massacres that devastated Black communities came to be described as the “Red Summer.” Some of the most well known took place in Elaine, Arkansas, Chicago and Washington in 1919; Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921 and Rosewood, Florida, in 1923. The term “Red Summer” was coined by James Weldon Johnson, the executive secretary of the NAACP who wrote the lyrics for the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem.
July 19 to Sept. 28, 1919
In Washington, D.C., as many as 40 people, most of them Black, were killed by mobs and in gun battles over four days. “The Washington riot of 1919 would be distinguished by strong, organized and armed black resistance, foreshadowing the great civil rights struggles later in the 20th century,” Peter Perl wrote in The Washington Post. On July 27 in Chicago, dozens were killed and the city’s Black neighborhoods were besieged by white mobs. In Omaha, Nebraska, on Sept. 28, a white mob stormed the courthouse and lynched a man.
Sept. 30, 1919
Elaine Massacre. In Elaine, Arkansas, hundreds of Black people were killed over a four-day period after they attempted to form a union. Scores of the Black union members were charged and imprisoned and 12 were convicted and sentenced to death. The NAACP argued the case of six of the men before the U.S. Supreme Court, which resulted in the 1923 landmark Moore v. Dempsey ruling.
Jan. 26, 1922
The Dyer bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, 231-119, with four members voting present and 74 not voting. But it died in November 1922 in the Senate when Minority Leader Oscar Underwood, D-Alabama, threatened a filibuster that would have killed a ship-subsidy bill sought by the administration of President Warren G. Harding, according to the congressional record.
Feb. 19, 1923
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Moore v. Dempsey, effectively overturned the convictions of six Black men convicted of murder in the aftermath of the massacre in Elaine, Arkansas. The court held that a mob-dominated trial violated the due process protections of the 14th Amendment. “Moore v. Dempsey marked the beginning of stricter scrutiny of state criminal trials by the Supreme Court,” according to “The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
The Dyer anti-lynching bill was reintroduced in each new Congress in the 1920s, with the assistance of James Weldon Johnson, who shaped the NAACP’s campaign against lynching. The bills failed to gain traction, but historians say the public awareness campaign pushed by the NAACP likely contributed to a decline in lynching after the 1920s.
January 1934 to May 1935
Sens. Edward P. Costigan, D-Colorado, and Robert Wagner, D-New York, introduced the Costigan-Wagner anti-lynching bill, which included the federal prosecution of public officials and law enforcement officers, who failed to protect the victims in their custody. On June 16, Costigan accused Congress of ignoring the bill and prioritizing less important matters, saying, “We have every reason to believe that a substantial majority of both branches of Congress desires and would approve the measure.” But it died in the spring of 1935 after it was filibustered by southern Senators, according to the congressional record.
The civil rights movement picks up momentum.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund was founded in 1940. “Under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, who subsequently became the first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, LDF was launched at a time when the nation’s aspirations for equality and due process of law were stifled by widespread state-sponsored racial inequality,” the NAACP website says.
Aug. 28, 1955
At about 2 a.m., Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago, was kidnapped by two white men for allegedly “smart talking” a white woman who was the wife of one of the kidnappers. In the presence of witnesses, Till was taken from the home of his great uncle whom he was visiting in Mississippi. On Aug. 31, Till’s mangled body was found in the Tallahatchie River near his relatives’ home in Money, Mississippi. Three days later his mother, Mamie Till, decided to have an open-casket funeral. Thousands waited in line to see his brutally beaten body. The defendants were arrested, tried, and on Sept. 23, acquitted by an all-white, 12-man jury after 67 minutes of deliberation. Coverage of Till’s lynching and subsequent trial, along with nationwide distribution of photos of Till’s body, especially in Black publications such as Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender newspaper, are credited by historians with helping launch the Civil Rights Movement. According to the Library of Congress’ Civil Rights History Project, the Emmett Till “newspaper coverage and murder trial galvanized a generation of young African Americans to join the Civil Rights Movement out of fear that such an incident could happen to friends, family, or even themselves.”
July 2, 1964
President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and made employment discrimination illegal.
Aug. 6, 1965
President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 to end discriminatory practices, such as literacy tests that were intended to suppress the Black vote. According to the NAACP, “Originally, legislators hoped that within five years of its passage, the issues surrounding the 1965 Voting Rights Act would be resolved and there would be no further need for its enforcement-related provisions. They were wrong. Congress had to extend these provisions in 1970, 1975, 1982 and most recently in 2007, this time for 25 years.”
April 11, 1968
President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, which banned discrimination in housing. Neither this law, nor the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965, made lynching a federal crime.
March 21, 1981
Michael Donald, a 19-year-old Black man, was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Mobile, Alabama. Donald’s mother, Beulah Mae Donald, filed a civil suit against the United Klans of America. In 1987, Ms. Donald “won an historic $7 million verdict against the men involved in the lynching” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which served as her co-counsel. United Klans was compelled to turn over its headquarters to Ms. Donald. The SPLC further reported “the verdict marked the end of the United Klans, the same group that had beaten the Freedom Riders in 1961, murdered civil rights worker, Viola Liuzzo, in 1965, and bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.”
1998 – Present
The fight for justice and equality continues.
June 7, 1998
In Jasper, Texas, James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old Black man, was beaten by three white men, who dragged Byrd about three miles to his death after chaining his ankles to the back of a pickup truck. “The impact severed the arm, shoulder, neck, and head from the rest of the body,” according to Britannica, which wrote the men “dumped James Byrds’s mutilated remains in the town’s segregated black cemetery.” Two attackers were sentenced to death; the third was sentenced to life in prison.
June 13, 2005
The U.S. Senate, by unanimous consent, “apologiz[ed] to the victims of lynching and the descendants of those victims for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation.” The apology was in a Resolution introduced Feb. 7, 2005, by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, with 89 co-sponsors.
May 14, 2006
The Waco Tribune-Herald published a statement regarding its coverage of the gruesome lynching of mentally impaired 17-year-old Jesse Washington, whose body parts were taken as souvenirs. The May 15, 1916, lynching of the Black teen in Texas was nationally known as the “Waco Horror,” which drew more than 10,000 spectators but resulted in no convictions for Washington’s murder. In 2006, the paper wrote, “We regret the role that journalists of that era may have played in either inciting passions or failing to deplore mob violence,’’ according to Richard Prince of journal-isms. The statement of regret is no longer available on the newspaper’s website.
May 31, 2006
North Carolina’s 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission published its final report with 15 recommendations, meant to “repair the moral, economic, civic and political damage wrought by the violence and discrimination resulting from a conspiracy to re-take control of city, county, and state governments by the Democratic Party’s white supremacy campaign.” Recommendation No. 10 read, “Newspapers (News and Observer, Charlotte Observer, Wilmington Star) should acknowledge the role of media in the events of 1898. … The Commission calls upon said papers to study the effects of and impact of Jim Crow on the state’s black press and to endow scholarships at the state’s public universities.”
The (Raleigh, North Carolina) News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer published a 16-page special section acknowledging their role in fomenting the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot. Two months later, the North Carolina Democratic Party also apologized for what party chair Jerry Meek called “the only coup d’etat on U.S. soil.’’
April 28, 2009
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, introduced the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The act made it a federal crime to inflict bodily harm against someone as a result of hate based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Shepard was killed in October 1998, four months after Byrd, whose murder was racially motivated. Shepard was a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie because of his sexual orientation. The act was signed by President Barack Obama as Division E of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010.
April 26, 2018
The Equal Justice Initiative opened The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. It is the nation’s first memorial “dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence,” according to the EJI. On the same day, the Montgomery Advertiser editorial board reckoned with its racist past. The paper apologized for its coverage of lynchings in Alabama. “We were wrong,” the editorial board wrote. “We went along with the 19th- and early 20th-century lies that African-Americans were inferior. We propagated a worldview rooted in racism and the sickening myth of racial superiority.’’
June 28, 2018
The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018 was introduced by then-Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, and two other African American senators, Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Tim Scott, R-South Carolina. The act specified “lynching as a deprivation of civil rights” and passed the Senate on Dec. 19, 2018, by a voice vote but did not receive a vote in the House of Representatives.
Feb. 23, 2020
Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black male, was chased, shot and killed in broad daylight by two white men. Arbery was jogging through a predominantly white community, Satilla Shores in Glynn County, Georgia, a few miles from his home in Brunswick. A third white man “joined the chase and used his truck to cut off Arbery’s route,” according to allegations in an indictment referenced by the United States Department of Justice. In describing the death of Arbery, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, said, “It was a lynching clear on its face, a modern-day lynching.”
Feb. 26, 2020
Bobby Rush introduced the Emmett Till Antilynching Act to define lynching as a deprivation of civil rights. Rush said he clearly remembered when his mother called the family into their Chicago living room and showed them a copy of Jet magazine with a photo of Till’s body. He said his mother told them this was why she brought her boys out of the South. “Emmett’s murder was something that was up front and personal with me,’’ Rush said in an interview with Vox. The bill passed the House, 410-4.
May 25, 2020
Law enforcement officers in Minneapolis killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, when one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for nine minutes, 29 seconds. Floyd’s death was captured on cellphone video taken by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier in the crowd and was seen by millions of people around the world. Black civil rights leaders, members of Congress and scholars called the murders of Byrd, Arbery and Floyd modern-day lynchings.
June 8, 2020
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 was introduced by Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, along with 230 co-sponsors. It was introduced in response to the deaths of numerous unarmed Black people at the hands of police. The dead included Eric Garner (2014, New York), Michael Brown (2014, Missouri), Laquan McDonald (2014, Illinois), Elijah McClain (2019, Colorado), Breonna Taylor (2020, Kentucky) and George Floyd (2020, Minnesota). On June 25, the act passed the House by a vote of 236-181. It has not passed the Senate as of Jan. 17, 2022.
About 15 million to 26 million Americans participated in Black Lives Matter protests and marches in the U.S., according to polls cited in The New York Times. The protests against mass incarceration and police killings were spurred by a series of deaths of Black people at the hands of police.
June 26, 2020
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law the state’s hate crime legislation, which resulted from the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Kemp described the bipartisan legislation as “a sign of progress and it’s a milestone worth applauding,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Sept. 15, 2020
In a civil wrongful-death lawsuit, Louisville, Kentucky, agreed to a $12 million settlement and police reforms stemming from the March 13, 2020, police killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman. The reforms addressed three areas, as reported by Vox: community connections between police and the people they serve, search-warrant protocol and police accountability.
Jan. 4, 2021
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, reintroduced the Emmett Till Antilynching Act to define lynching as a hate crime.
Feb. 8, 2021
Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Richard Durbin, both Democrats from Illinois, reintroduced their 2019 legislation to designate a 1908 Springfield Race Riot site as a national monument, which would commemorate the riot’s role in the formation of the NAACP and be managed by the National Park Service.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that active cells of the Ku Klux Klan have declined to at least 25, the lowest number in years. But the center’s “The Year in Hate and Extremism 2020’’ report found 837 other active hate groups. Moreover, its polling in August 2020 found that 29% of Americans “personally know someone who believes that white people are the superior race.”
March 3, 2021
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which is identical to the 2020 act of the same name, passed the House. The act bans the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants, among other police reforms.
April 20, 2021
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted by a jury for the murder of George Floyd.
April 28, 2021
Three white men, Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, are indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia and charged with hate crimes and attempted kidnapping in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Each defendant was also charged separately by the state with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
Aug. 30, 2021
The FBI released data showing hate crimes in 2020 reached their highest level in a dozen years, “with Black and Asian victims seeing a surge in assaults,’’ according to The Hill. In response, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson told NPR on Sept. 2, “We must turn back the clock of the rise in racial hate crimes and hold people accountable and make sure social media platforms are not being leveraged to sow seeds of hate because when that happens, communities are put in danger.”
Sept. 22, 2021
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 died in the Senate after Republicans refused to support a scaled-back version of police-reform legislation.
Nov. 24, 2021
Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan were convicted by a jury of nine white women, two white men and one Black man in Georgia for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man. All three were sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 7, 2022 — the McMichaels with no possibility of parole. The defendants will face trial for federal hate crime charges in 2022.
Feb. 28, 2022
The U.S. House passed, 422-3, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. The legislation, for the first time, made lynching a federal hate crime offense and imposed a prison term of up to 30 years on people convicted of conspiring to kill, sexually assault, kidnap or seriously injure someone.
March 7, 2022
The Senate passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act by unanimous consent. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., worked with Rush and other members of Congress for years to win approval of the legislation. “After 200 failed attempts and over a century’s worth of efforts, I am proud to say that Congress has finally passed legislation to criminalize lynching, a shameful instrument of terror used to intimidate and oppress Black Americans,” Booker said.
March 29, 2022
President Joseph Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law, ending more than 130 years of failed attempts by Congress to criminalize lynching. The president said lynching was “pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone … belongs in America and not everyone is created equal.” Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago, was brutally lynched Aug. 28, 1955, while visiting relatives in Mississippi.
Aneurin Canham-Clyne contributed to this timeline.
CeLillianne Green was a visiting professional for the Howard Center’s “Printing Hate’’ project. She recently appeared in National Geographic’s “Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer’’ documentary. She is a lawyer, a poet and the author of two books, “That Word’’ and “A Bridge, The Poetic Primer on African and African American Experiences.’’