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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Senate Accepts Blame in Years of Lynchings

WASHINGTON -- Fifty years ago, black teenager Emmett Till was dragged from his uncle's Mississippi home and murdered, ostensibly because he whistled at a white woman. The U.S. Senate has acknowledged that it shares blame for Till's death.

"There may be no other injustice in American history for which the Senate so uniquely bears responsibility," Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said before a voice vote passed her resolution apologizing for the Senate's refusal to enact legislation against lynching and mob violence that terrorized black Americans well into the 20th century.

Among the witnesses to the Senate's apology was a 91-year-old man thought to be the only living survivor of an attempted lynching. James Cameron was a shoeshine boy in Indiana in 1930 when he had a rope placed around his neck. Two of his friends, accused of the murder of a white man and the rape of a white woman, were hanged. Cameron was spared when a man in the crowd proclaimed the boy's innocence.

"I was saved by a miracle," said Cameron, who went on to found America's Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee. "They were going to lynch me between my two buddies," he said. Thousands of people, he said, were "hollering for my blood when a voice said, 'Take this boy back.'"

Mob violence killed 4,743 people between 1882 and 1968, according to records of Tuskegee University in Alabama. Of those, 3,446 were blacks. Lynchings reached a peak of 230 in 1892 but remained relatively widespread well into the 1930s.

During the lynching years, nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress, and three passed the House of Representatives. But the Senate, with Southern conservatives using the unique power of the filibuster, would not act.

The nonbinding resolution apologizes to the victims for the Senate's failure to act and "expresses the deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States."