Emmett Till (top left; photo credit: Mamie Till Bradley) was a 14-year-old boy who was lynched by a mob of white men in 1955. President Joe Biden (top right; photo credit: The White House) signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law this spring, making lynching a federal crime for the first time in U.S. history. The vast majority of lynching victims have been Black, but migrants have also been lynched (bottom row; photo credits LynchingInTexas.org and Bullock Texas State History Museum). Just last year, a Mexican migrant was found dead in an apparent lynching in Texas.

Communities of color have experienced a long history of being lynched. As recently as last fall, a migrant man from Mexico was found dead in Texas in an apparent lynching. Now, a new law finally makes this act of terror a federal hate crime.

The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden this spring. The bill was named after a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago who died in 1955. He was kidnapped, tortured and killed by a mob of white men in Mississippi after allegedly whistling at a white woman. His murder sparked a national outcry.

“Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone — not everyone belongs in America and not everyone is created equal,” Biden said.

Image credit: The White House

What exactly is lynching? “Lynching typically is understood to mean illegal mob actions that result in the slaying of a person based on race without due process for the victim,” the L.A. Times explains. The NAACP describes lynching as “public violent acts that white people used to terrorize and control Black people in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in the South.”

A report by the Equal Justice Initiative shows that there were more than 4,400 terror racial lynchings in the country in the period after the Civil War through World War II. While Black people accounted for 72% of lynchings, immigrants from Mexico, China and other countries were also lynched.

This 1915 postcard, called “Dead Mexican Bandits,” shows three Texas Rangers posing with the bodies of four Tejanos, apparently killed at random for the crime of theft. Photo credit: Bullock Texas State History Museum

Examples of anti-Latino lynchings include:

In 1896, Aureliano Castellán was executed for looking at a white woman. His body was found severely burned, with eight bullet wounds. His attackers had poured coal oil on him, and burned his body before dumping it into the river. 

In 1910, Antonio Rodriguez was jailed, accused of murdering a rancher. An angry mob swarmed the jailhouse, torturing 20-year-old Rodriguez before burning him alive.

In 1911, Gabriel Gomez, age 14, was approached by a mob that accused him of a crime, and encircled him before he could get away. In an act of self defense, he stabbed one of the men, who later died. Within three hours, Gabriel was jailed, abducted, dragged by chain and hanged.

Photo credit: LynchingInTexas.org

And lynchings of Latinos have continued even in modern times. In October, Pulso informed you about an apparent lynching in Brooks County, Texas, where a Mexican migrant man was found dead, hanging from a tree. The victims’ clothes were located nearby and his feet were missing.

Prior to the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, previous attempts had been made to get anti-lynching legislation passed, but the filibuster prevented them from becoming law.

Author

Frank Morris Lopez (he/him/his) is the Arizona lead digital organizer and content creator for Pulso. He is an award-winning multimedia journalist, having worked for media outlets in the Phoenix and Boston areas. He was born and raised in Glendale, AZ, and lived in Cambridge, MA from 2011 to 2018 before returning to the Phoenix area. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ, and a master’s in social justice and human rights from Arizona State University.