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Man was Lynched Yesterday sign - Styled Hero

Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill

Early in the 20th century, mob lynchings were all too common, particularly in the South. In 1916, NAACP prioritized advocating for anti-lynching legislation and formed a special committee to bring public awareness to this unconscionable practice. A partnership with Anti-Lynching Crusaders led to rallies, the mobilization of volunteers, and targeted media advertisements. 

Protecting all from lynching

In 1918, Missouri Representative Leonidas Dyer, a white Republican, introduced his anti-lynching bill in Congress. A progressive who represented a predominantly African-American district, Dyer was deeply disgusted by the violence resulting from race riots in St. Louis and continued lynching across the South. 

AN ACT To assure to persons within the jurisdiction of every State the equal protection of the laws, and to punish the crime of lynching.

Under Moorfield Storey, NAACP did not support the Dyer Bill, arguing that it was unconstitutional. Storey, a lawyer, revised his position in 1918 and NAACP supported Dyer's anti-lynching legislation and pushed other lawmakers to act. 

The Dyer Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on January 26, 1922. Although the Senate Judiciary Committee moved the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, its passage was halted by a filibuster in the Senate by Southern Democrats.

Efforts to pass similar legislation were not taken up again for another decade. The Dyer Bill influenced the language of all subsequent anti-lynching legislation supported by the NAACP into the 1950s, including the Costigan-Wagner Bill in 1935. Read the Dyer Bill in its entirety below:

Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill

APRIL 20 (calendar day, JULY 28), 1922.

AN ACT To assure to persons within the jurisdiction of every State the equal protection of the laws, and to punish the crime of lynching.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the phrase "mob or riotous assemblage," when used in this act, shall mean an assemblage composed of

SEC. 2. That if any State or governmental subdivision thereof fails, neglects, or refuses to provide and maintain protection to the life of any person within its jurisdiction against a mob or riotous assemblage, such State shall by reason of such failure, neglect, or refusal be deemed to have denied to such person the equal protection of the laws of the State, and to the end that such protection as is guaranteed to the citizens of the United States by its Constitution may be secured it is provided:

SEC. 3. That any State or municipal officer charged with the duty or who possess the power or authority as such officer to protect the life of any person that may be put to death by any mob or riotous assemblage, or who has any such person in his charge as a prisoner, who fails, neglects, or refuses to make all reasonable efforts to prevent such person from being so put to death, or any State or municipal officer charged with the duty of apprehending or prosecuting any person participating in such mob or riotous assemblage who fails, neglects, or refuses to make all reasonable efforts to perform his duty in apprehending or prosecuting to final judgment under the laws of such State all persons so participating except such, if any, as are to have been held to answer for such participation in any district court of the United States, as herein provided, shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment not exceeding five years or by a fine of not exceeding $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Any State or municipal officer, acting as such officer State law, having in his custody or control a prisoner, who shall conspire, combine, who shall conspire, combine, with such officer shall likewise be guilty of a felony. parties participating therein shall be punished by imprisonment for life or not less than five years.

SEC. 4. That the district court of the judicial district wherein a person is put to death by a mob or riotous assemblage shall have jurisdiction to try and punish, in accordance with the laws of the State where the homicide is committed, those who participate therein: Provided, That it shall be charged in the indictment that by reason of the failure, neglect, or refusal of the officers of the State charged with the duty of prosecuting such offense under the laws of the State to proceed with due diligence to apprehend and prosecute such participants the State has denied to its citizens the equal protection of the laws. It shall not be necessary that the jurisdictional allegations herein required shall be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and it shall be sufficient if such allegations are sustained by a preponderance of the evidence.

SEC. 5. That any county in which a person is put to death by a mob or riotous assemblage shall, if it is alleged and proven that the officers of the State charged with the duty of prosecuting criminally such offense under the laws of the State have failed, neglected, or refused to proceed with due diligence to apprehend and prosecute the participants in the mob or riotous assemblage, forfeit $10,000, be recovered by an action therefor [sic] in the name of the United States against any such county for the use of the family, if any, of the person so put to death; if he had no family, then to his dependent parents, if any; otherwise for the use of the United States. Such action shall be brought and prosecuted by the district attorney of the United States of the district in which such county is situated in any court of the United States having jurisdiction therein. If such forfeiture is not paid upon recovery of a judgment therefor [sic], such court shall have jurisdiction to enforce [sic], and to any other penalty provided by law therefor [sic].

SEC. 6. That in the event that any person so put to death shall have been transported by such mob or riotous assemblage from one county to another county during the time intervening between his capture and putting to death, the county in which he is seized and the county in which he is put to death shall be jointly and severally liable to pay the forfeiture herein provided.

SEC. 7. That any act committed in any State or Territory of the United States in violation of the rights of a citizen or subject of a foreign country secured to such citizen or subject by treaty between the United States and such foreign country, which act constitutes a crime under the laws of such State or Territory, shall constitute a like crime against the peace and dignity of the United States, punishable in like manner as in the courts of said State or Territory, and within the period limited by the laws of such State or Territory, and may be prosecuted in the courts of the United States, and upon conviction the sentence executed in like manner as sentences upon convictions for crimes under the laws of the United States.

SEC. 8. That in construing and applying this act the District of Columbia shall be deemed a county, as shall also each of the parishes of the State of Louisiana.

That if any section or provision of this acts shall be held by any court to be invalid, the balance of the act shall not for that reason be held invalid.

For Heaven's sake, do not tell the negroes that their case is hopeless, that this great country cannot protect them from absolute wanton murder with the connivance and with the assistance of the officers appointed by law to defend them, and with absolute indifference on the part of the United States." 

- Moorfield Storey - Lawyer and the first president of the NAACP (1922)
Female in front of Capitol - Styled

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