Senate to Apologize for Not Enacting Anti-Lynching Law

The great-great granddaughter of a black South Carolina farmer who was killed by a white mob nearly a century ago will be on hand next week when the Senate belatedly apologizes for failing to pass anti-lynching legislation.

Doria Dee Johnson (search), an author and frequent lecturer on the subject of lynchings, says she will be in the chamber Monday when the Senate is expected to approve a resolution expressing remorse for not stopping a crime that took the lives of at least 4,742 people, mostly blacks, between 1882 and 1968.

Johnson, from Evanston, Ill., said her family "lost property and family solidarity that still affects us today" when Anthony Crawford (search), a wealthy cotton farmer, was killed in 1916 by several hundred residents of Abbeville, S.C.

Senate filibusters in the past blocked House bills and presidential requests to pass anti-lynching legislation (search), she said. "It will be nice to have an apology from that same body," she said.

The Senate resolution, sponsored by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and George Allen, R-Va., notes that nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in the first half of the 20th century and that seven presidents between 1890 and 1952 petitioned Congress to end lynching. But nothing got through the Senate.

The nonbinding measure apologizes for this failure and expresses "most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching."

Landrieu's spokesman, Adam Sharp, said the resolution is expected to pass on a voice vote. He said Johnson will be joined in the Senate on Monday by other descendants of victims, including a cousin of Emmett Till, the black teenager killed in Mississippi 50 years ago, reportedly for whistling at a white woman. The FBI last week exhumed Till's body to search for clues to his slaying.

Landrieu, in an interview, said lynching and mob violence were "an American form of terrorism" documented in at least 46 states. She said that now, when the United States is fighting a war against terrorism, was a good time to apologize for the past and "remind ourselves that terrorism existed in the United States in different ways."

According to Johnson, her great-great grandfather owned 427 acres of cotton land and was a community leader, starting a school for black children and a union for black farmers.

He was arrested after he accused a white buyer of cheating him by giving him less for his cotton than white farmers were receiving. Between 200 and 400 local residents and government officials hanged him from a pine tree and riddled his body with 200 bullets, she said.