President Barack Obama has signed the “Emmett Till Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016,” which expands responsibilities of the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate and prosecute criminal civil rights violations that occurred before 1980 and resulted in a death.
The bill is an expansion of a previous bill of the same name that was passed by the House of Representatives in 2007.
According to the White House, the bill calls on the FBI and DOJ to support the “full accounting of all victims whose deaths or disappearances were the result of racially motivated crimes” and “hold accountable under federal and state law individuals who were perpetrators of, or accomplices in, unsolved civil rights murders and disappearances.”
When the bill was passed in the House earlier this month, the original co-sponsors commented:
“When this bill was signed into law, family members, academics, historians, lawyers, advocates began working to develop a full accounting for these long-standing, gross human and civil rights atrocities. The re-authorization that the House passed this evening is a response to their appeals to make the law a better tool in their quest for justice. “ORIGINAL CO-SPONSOR – Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
“We must never forget our nation’s dark past and should be mindful of our history and why so many in the African-American community raise the issue of whether black lives matter. Many civil rights era crimes were barely noted or investigated, and I believe the perpetrators of those crimes should be brought to justice, even 50 years later. We passed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act in 2007 to help bring these cases to light and seek justice for victims and their families. ORIGINAL CO-SPONSOR – Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
“As an original cosponsor of the Emmett Till Reauthorization Act, I’m pleased to see my colleagues came together and supported this important bill. This bipartisan legislation will provide for a sustained, well-coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute unsolved civil rights-era crimes. There are hundreds of cold cases from the civil rights era that have never been solved, and it is my hope that we are able to bring justice to the victims’ families.” ORIGINAL CO-SPONSOR – Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
The bill expresses the sense of Congress that all authorities with jurisdiction should: (1) meet regularly with civil rights organizations, institutions of higher education, and DOJ-designated entities to coordinate information sharing and discuss the status of DOJ’s Emmett Till Act work; (2) support the full accounting of all victims whose deaths or disappearances were the result of racially motivated crimes; (3) hold accountable under federal and state law individuals who were perpetrators of, or accomplices in, unsolved civil rights murders and disappearances; (4) keep families regularly informed about the status of the investigations; and (5) expeditiously comply with Freedom of Information Act requests and develop a singular, publicly accessible repository of these disclosed documents.
In a related note, an article published in 1955 details a chilling account of the Emmett Till murder investigation. The article was first published by The Nation October 1, 1955.