The US House of Representatives has given overwhelming, bipartisan support to legislation that would make lynching a federal crime, the high point in a 120 year effort to pass such a bill.

The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is named after a black Chicago teen who was murdered by racists while visit family in Mississippi during the 1950s.  Such crimes were all too frequent at the time, but the murder of Till became a national touchstone when his mother demanded that his closed casket be opened so the news media could photograph the damage inflicted on the 14-year old boy, to "let the world see what I have seen."  The story and the photos raced around the world, giving urgency to the US Civil Rights Movement.

Chicago Democratic Congressman and former Black Panther Bobby Rush introduced the legislation.

"From Charlottesville to El Paso, we are still being confronted with the same violent racism and hatred that took the life of Emmett and so many others," Mr. Rush said, referencing the deadly white supremacist rallies in Virginia in 2017 and a mass shooting in Texas last year in which a racist fan of Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies targeted people perceived to be Latino.  "The passage of this bill will send a strong and clear message to the nation that we will not tolerate this bigotry."

Another version of the bill was already passed by the Senate, and once the two version are reconciled by the conference committee, it will be put before both houses one more time and then sent to the White House.

But historians are well aware that attempts to pass anti-lynching legislation began in 1900, and many consider it a disgrace that it took this long to get here.

"When it really mattered, and when it really would have had the impact of protecting the lives of black people in this country, there was widespread unwillingness" to pass a bill like this, said Dr. Tameka Bradley Hobbs, an associate professor of history at Florida Memorial University.

"There's much more that could be done in terms of our curriculum to make sure that folks understood the full scope of anti-black violence in American history," Dr. Hobbs said.  "I think if they understood that, perhaps they would understand the Black Lives Matter movement as an extension of centuries, really, of advocacy on the part of African-Americans."