Home / Lynching Apology – A Little Perspective

Lynching Apology – A Little Perspective

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The media is paying a lot of attention to the recent bill passed in the Senate providing an apology for past failures to pass anti-lynching legislation in a timely manner. The apology was supported by all of the Democrats and the majority of the Republicans in the Senate, but 15 Republicans opted not to support it, drawing the ire of the NAACP and all sorts of critics on the left.

News articles report the inability to pass any of the 200 anti-lynching bills that were submitted over the years as a failure of the entire Senate, and supporters of the bill think it’s despicable of these 15 Republicans to not support it – after all, what kind of a person isn’t against lynching – but all of these outraged folks are overlooking the simple basic facts of history. Every one of the anti-lynching bills which failed in the Senate was overwhelmingly supported by Republicans and mostly sponsored by Republicans. They failed entirely because of the efforts of the Democratic party to shut down any kind of civil rights legislations, a party position which lasted until the 1960s.

Out of 200 anti-lynching bills only three made it out of the mostly Democrat controlled House of Representatives, and all three of those failed in the Senate because of filibusters against them by Democrat Senators like Strom Thurmond and Theodore Bilbo who used the filibuster to block the Republicans in the Senate from passing most civil rights legislation until the mid-1960s.

While as a society we should all certainly feel guilty and remorseful that lynching went on, when it comes to those in government who supported and opposed lynching there’s a clear division of responsibility. While Republicans did everything they could to punish lynching, Democrats worked just as hard to keep lynchings alive. Is it such a terrible thing that those Republicans who remember that they were on the right side of this fight feel that it’s not really appropriate to apologize for something they fought against in the first place?

There’s no question that the Democrats in the Senate need to apologize for their party’s guilt in supporting lynchings, but perhaps someone should take a moment to applaud Republicans of that era for fighting the good fight against lynchings for so many years.

There’s a good article on the history of filibusters and their use to block civil rights legislation at FactCheck.org.


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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • RJ

    Well, Democrats will say that those who opposed anti-lynching laws in the past were Democrats then, but are now Republicans.

  • So, basically, you’re saying it’s ok that those 15 Republicans didn’t support the bill because Republicans 50 years ago were against lynchings?

  • No, I’m saying that the Republican party and those specific Republicans have nothing to apologize for, having not been party to trying to block lynching legislation in the first place. You can’t really apologize for something you didn’t do.


  • You’re just rationalizing.

    What was done three decades ago is despicable, but has no real bearing on the actions of a handful of Republican Senators today.

    It’s about as valuable as pointing out that the 1960 Pirates beat the 1960 Yankees in the World Series, and since that’s the last time they played, then the Pirates should be expected to beat the Yankees this week in interleague ball. The team names are the same, but the players are much different.

    If the Pirates committed a horrendous error leading to a loss, you wouldn’t expect a sportswriter to say it’s no big deal, because Bill Mazeroski hit a series-winning homerun 45 years ago, right?

  • I meant four decades ago, not three.

  • And you wouldn’t expect Steinbrenner to apologize for losing a game in 1933 when he was a baby and someone else was coaching the Yankees.


  • Apologizing for crimes you didn’t commit seems to me to be a cheap exercise in moral preening and little else.

  • >>What was done three decades ago is despicable, but has no real bearing on the actions of a handful of Republican Senators today. << Three decades ago enough southern democrats had lost their seats in the Senate that they were able to pass anti-lynching legislation. The filibusters they're apologizing for were in the 40s and 50s. Dave

  • The Republican and Democratic parties were very different parties in the time period you are talking about, than they are now. The southern Dems were Dixiecrats, thoroughly under the control of the religious right and Jim Crow. Since then, these elements decamped en masse to the Republican party and took it over. Bottom line, the backward, bigoted people who blocked civil rights and anti-lynching legislation are the same people who today refuse to apologize for lynching.

  • The real Republicans are still here, NMMNG, and we still more or less control the party despite the Neocon invasion. When the Dems kicked the Dixiecrats out the GOP – which has always been more accomodating of diversity – let them in. But if a party’s changed it’s the Democrats, who’ve moved away from their small government, populist roots to become the party of big government and the bureaucratic elite.


  • “When the Dems kicked the Dixiecrats out the GOP – which has always been more accomodating of diversity”

    Yes, the GOP welcomed those racists with open arms, didn’t they?

    My question is for the people who didn’t sign it or what not…why not just sign it? What’s the big damn deal? Sign it and get it over with so there’s absolutely no question

  • Scott, signing it is essentially admitting responsibility for wrongdoing, and a lot of people don’t like to take responsibility for bad actions which they had nothing to do with. I can understand that.


  • To the commentators: There are Senators in a Senate that as a body refused to support anti-lynching measures. The measure is for the body as a whole to move toward making right what was once wrong, not for individuals to admit they were wrong or have done wrong.

    If people look at the bills sponsors, it also wasn’t meant to “trap” anyone into admitting guilt – except as an institution. There was guilt all around.

    Again, it’s a measure of the Senate by the Senate to apologize for actions of the same American institution from a prior time in history. It’s called admitting your mistakes. It’s not about any individual, though rationalization rules in their minds and others.

    Surely there are historical parallels people can conjur up from the mid-20th century thereabouts? Or even over in the China / Japan arena from the more recent past.

    It’s a silly and sad idea to want to continue to cast blame in one direction or the other. It’s a stain on American history that can’t be whitewashed.

    I’m sorry it happened.

  • Something that seems to get missed abot this piece of legislation is that it serves no purpose other than being a feel-good piece of legislation. It gives no money. It makes no appropriations. It changes no laws. I doesn’t even start a fund for a crummy monument. It’s a wasted article that Kerry pushed in order to prop himself up on the back of the republican that wrote the friggin’ bill in the first place. If I were a senator I’d have given a protest vote myself. Not for the bill, because it was already passed, but to kick Kerry squarely in the nads for trying to grandstand when there are real politics afoot.

    But don’t take the word of a white boy Republican bigot. Go read a similar statement from a black republican.

  • Nobody missed that Jeremy. You seem to have missed what you typed however – who FIRST sponsored the bill. If you’re vindictive like that you are not Senator material (of course a lot with similar mindsets are, so nevermind).

  • Paul D, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    The republicans are the unabashed modern day racist party. They refuse to raise minimum wage. They enact laws that attack the poor such as the recent bankruptcy “reform” bill. They ignore a healthcare crisis. Furthermore, they have eliminated many college education financing programs and drawn congressional district lines to weaken the strength of the black vote. Worst of all, many blacks and hispanics in Florida and Ohio were stopped from voting in the last two elections by aggressive republican secretaries of state. Now it’s confirmed, with many republican senators refusing to simply sign a bill apologizing for the senate’s past failure to enact anti-lynching bills. The cowardly republican party is a disgrace.

  • The 10 Republican Senators who haven’t co-signed the resolution can, I suppose, defend their decision by saying it was the Democrats of long ago who filibustered anti-lynching legislation.

    I haven’t actually heard any of the 10 Republicans use that excuse.

    Let’s take it another step. Say the Senate wanted to pass a resolution apologizing for allowing slavery to be legal for nearly a century of our nation’s history. Would the 10 Republicans not sign that — after all, they had nothing to do with slavery.

    Say someone wanted to pass a resolution apologizing for the U.S. slow reaction to Nazi Germany, or for FDR turning away a ship of Jewish refugees in, I believe, 1942. Would the 10 Republicans not sign that, because FDR was a Democrat?

    The anti-lynching apology resolution was symbolic, and no one pretended otherwise. Unanimous Senate support acknowledges — across party, racial and geographic boundaries — that our leaders have made mistakes in the past. And while that can’t bring back the relatives of those who sat in attendance — while Bill Frist pushed for a voice vote, and while a handful of Republicans chose to remain silent — it’s a small token, perhaps saying that our leaders have learned from mistakes of the past, with the goal of being better leaders today. That was the purpose of the symbolic resolution.

    The 10 Republican Senators, most notably the two from Mississippi, should consider what symbolic message they are sending by not signing the resolution. Yes, there may be technical reasons why they didn’t sign — political or geographical reasons, I suppose — but in the grand scheme of things, it sends a very mixed, very awkward message.

    Those relatives of lynching victims don’t really care about the technicalities or the politics. They just wanted a small symbol, to make up in part for their losses.

  • Paul, you’re just utterly clueless. It’s like you’re drowning in a sea of deception and lies. Do you never even consider questioning what the Democrats who bought black votes for $2 a piece in your state for years are telling you today?

    Nothing the Republican party does is racially motivated. It just seems that way to you because they don’t spend a lot of time passing meaningless legislation to suck up to racially focused special interests. Policies which are designed to help everyone, especially the poor and disadvantaged will help poor blacks as much as poor whites.

    >>drawn congressional district lines to weaken the strength of the black vote<< You mistake the Democrat vote for the black vote. If those voters were voting Republican the redistricting would have been to their advantage. Dave

  • RJ

    “The republicans are the unabashed modern day racist party.”

    Then how do you explain, for example, Condi Rice?

    “They refuse to raise minimum wage.”

    Actually, that’s not entirely true. But even if it was, what does that have to do with racism?

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