How Joe Madison has championed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act

Activist and SiriusXM Urban View (Ch. 126) host Madison has been speaking out and pressuring politicians in favor of anti-lynching legislation since 2018.

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SiriusXM Editor
March 19, 2022

Sen. Cory Booker (L) sits down for an interview with Joe Madison on January 10, 2020. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Activist, acclaimed political commentator and SiriusXM Urban View (Ch. 126) host Joe Madison has long been a supporter of human and civil rights causes, particularly the fight to pass legislation to explicitly criminalize lynching — a form of terror, control and public execution of Black people in the US in the 19th and 20th centuries — and make it a hate crime at the federal level.While the Senate unanimously passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on Monday, March 7, after centuries of failed attempts, Madison himself has been a vocal advocate for these efforts since 2018, when he first made public pleas to elected officials both online and on air.

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The Bill and Its History

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, named after a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago who was accused of supposedly whistling at a white woman while visiting family in Mississippi and then abducted and lynched in 1955, now declares that a crime can be prosecuted as a lynching when a hate crime results in a death or injury, making it punishable by up to 30 years in prison. This comes after the House version, sponsored by Rep. Bobby L. Rush, overwhelmingly passed 422–3 and marks a historic moment against an action that has long been a tool and symbol of racial violence in the nation.

In 1900, the first anti-lynching bill was proposed to Congress by George H. White, the only Black Congressman at the time, and did not make it past committee. In the time since, roughly 200 similar bills were filed unsuccessfully, even resulting in a formal apology from the Senate for the lack of action on the issue in 2005. However, it wasn’t until over a decade later that Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Tim Scott introduced the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018, with Madison credited for his support, including an earlier conversation with Harris in which she previewed the bill on his show, Joe Madison The Black Eagle. This came on the heels of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitting to SiriusXM’s Olivier Knox that he was unaware there wasn’t anti-lynching legislation on the books and that he would support it (Harris’ response? “Keep that tape and make copies.”)

Madison’s Anti-Lynching Activism

In the years since, movement behind the bill stalled after being passed in the House, though Madison refused to take his foot off the gas, continuing to question electeds and speak with journalists about the need for anti-lynching laws. Particularly, Senator Rand Paul remained in opposition of the bill, citing it as “too broad,” even as the series of nationwide uprisings against racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 renewed rigor behind passing such legislation.

“I don’t think there is any understanding. I think what [Senator Paul] is doing is wrong. And his explanation is wrong. He made patent claims on the Senate floor that are just wrong … This was already done. He had no objections in 2019. But now he’s coming to the floor to do it. And here’s something that may have not been made apparent to you, is that he brought this fight to the floor. He didn’t have to. He decided, he chose the time of the fight, do it on the day that we were memorializing George Floyd, who was murdered in broad daylight with cameras rolling. And that to me is a level of disrespect that just deepens my anger and frustration,” Senator Cory Booker told Joe Madison in June 2020.

After the introduction of a revised version, the current Emmett Till Antilynching Act, Madison spoke with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who promised on air to promote said legislation in March 2021.

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Following the House of Representatives passing the Act last month, House Majority Leader Congressman Steny Hoyer praised Madison for his involvement with the bill and advocacy from day one, acknowledging him as a “moving party.”

“Our democracy works best when citizens come up to Members and say ‘Hey, here’s a problem and it needs to be solved, it needs to be addressed. We need to say something.’ When it’s awful, if it’s awful, and you did that and I really do appreciate it,” Hoyer said.

Senator Booker and Representative Rush shared similar sentiments, with Rush in particular calling Madison a “moral authority.”

“You are our inspiration, Joe, so thank you, man. I thank you for your contributions, your sacrifices, your strong voice on behalf of freedom, justice and equality,” Rush reflected.

What’s Next?

With its unanimous passing in the Senate, President Biden is expected to sign the bill into law, officially making lynching a hate crime.