Friday, July 1, 2022

Speaking of Lynching

I was going to save this cartoon, published 100 years ago today, for Saturday's Graphical History Tour; but it doesn't quite fit tomorrow's theme. But it affords a nice segue from Clarence Thomas's "high-tech lynching" complaint in yesterday's cartoon to tomorrow's thrilling episode.

"Voice of the Negro" by Russell in New York Age, July 1, 1922

Rep. Leonidas C. Dyer was a Progressive Republican Congressman from St. Louis, Missouri. He first proposed his bill to make lynching a federal crime in 1918 in response to the race rioting in East St. Louis the previous year. Casualty estimates because of the attacks by White mobs vary wildly from 39 to 150 Black Americans; some 6,000 more were left homeless. Local police were reportedly ordered not to fire on the White rioters, allowing the violence to run unchecked for over a month.

Recognizing the fecklessness of local authorities, Dyer's bill called for the federal government “to protect citizens of the United States against lynching in default of protection by the States.” But it failed to pass the Democratic-led House. Dyer reintroduced his bill in 1920 after the "Red Summer" of 1919, and again it failed.

Republicans took the House, Senate and Presidency in the elections of 1920, and Dyer's third try passed the House of Representatives on January 26, 1922, encouraging Black Americans' hopes. Southern Democrats, joined by Idaho Republican William Borah, successfully filibustered against the Dyer bill however, arguing that lynchings were an issue that should be left for states to deal with. They even excused lynching by claiming that the practice was a reasonable strategy to protect White women from supposed amorous advances by Colored Folk.

They were, in the words I put in Ginni Thomas's mouth yesterday, "okay with it."

Dyer would never see his bill become law. He was defeated for reelection in the Democratic sweep of 1932, and died in 1957. All the while, Southern Democrats repeatedly filibustered anti-lynching bills.

Republicans found a way "to win the lily white South," but not in a way Congressman Dyer or cartoonist Russell would have appreciated. Over the rest of the 20th Century, as the rest of the Democratic Party became increasingly committed to civil rights for Black Americans, the progeny of those Southern Democrats left the party: first as Dixiecrats, and eventually taking over the Republican Party.

Only after overcoming a threatened filibuster by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul would any federal anti-lynching legislation become law. President Joe Biden finally signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on March 29, 2022.

Nearly a century after this cartoon was drawn.

No comments:

Post a Comment