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Public Statements

Apologizing to Lynching Victims and Their Descendants

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


APOLOGIZING TO LYNCHING VICTIMS AND THEIR DESCENDANTS

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today not only to show my support for S. Res. 39 but also to honor the achievements of Dr. James Cameron, the oldest living lynching survivor. Dr. Cameron moved on from his horrific early experience with racial hatred to found America's only Black Holocaust Museum. His life story and work are a source of hope and pride for many survivors of racial violence.

Dr. Cameron was born in LaCrosse, WI, in 1914 and moved to Indiana as a teenager. In Indiana, he accompanied two friends involved in an armed robbery that turned to rape and murder. Though Dr. Cameron ran away well before the crime was committed, all three young men were taken to jail. The Ku Klux Klan stormed that jail on August 7, 1930, hung Dr. Cameron's two friends and beat Dr. Cameron severely. Dr. Cameron survived but spent another 6 years in jail for crimes he did not commit.

Dr. Cameron has never let us forget the injustice done to him and to too many other victims of lynching and other forms of racial violence. After moving back to his home State of Wisconsin, he founded the Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee. This unique museum lays bare our Nation's violent past of racism and slavery. Dr. Cameron's efforts to shine a light on this disturbing aspect of our history have opened the eyes of thousands to the suffering of African-Americans--not only in the age of slavery but also in the decades that followed. As painful as the exhibits in his museum are to view, they are a necessary reminder of the costs of racial hatred--and of the apology we owe to the families torn apart by acts of racial hatred.

Because of my great respect for Dr. Cameron--and because he has opened our eyes to the great crimes committed by this nation by not ending lynching--I am cosponsoring S. Res. 39, a resolution apologizing to the victims of lynching and the descendants of those victims for the failure of the Senate to enact antilynching legislation. The history of lynching in America is an atrocious one indeed. Between the years 1882 and 1968, some 4,700 people were lynched. And though, over that same period, nearly 200 antilynching bills were proposed, none made it past the Senate.

That lack of action is truly a black mark on this institution's history and legacy. An apology cannot erase our crimes--but an acknowledgment of the costs of our inaction is a first step toward ensuring we never again let hate and racism run unchecked through our great Nation.

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today not only to show my support for S. Res. 39 but also to honor the achievements of Dr. James Cameron, the oldest living lynching survivor. Dr. Cameron moved on from his horrific early experience with racial hatred to found America's only Black Holocaust Museum. His life story and work are a source of hope and pride for many survivors of racial violence.

Dr. Cameron was born in LaCrosse, WI, in 1914 and moved to Indiana as a teenager. In Indiana, he accompanied two friends involved in an armed robbery that turned to rape and murder. Though Dr. Cameron ran away well before the crime was committed, all three young men were taken to jail. The Ku Klux Klan stormed that jail on August 7, 1930, hung Dr. Cameron's two friends and beat Dr. Cameron severely. Dr. Cameron survived but spent another 6 years in jail for crimes he did not commit.

Dr. Cameron has never let us forget the injustice done to him and to too many other victims of lynching and other forms of racial violence. After moving back to his home State of Wisconsin, he founded the Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee. This unique museum lays bare our Nation's violent past of racism and slavery. Dr. Cameron's efforts to shine a light on this disturbing aspect of our history have opened the eyes of thousands to the suffering of African-Americans--not only in the age of slavery but also in the decades that followed. As painful as the exhibits in his museum are to view, they are a necessary reminder of the costs of racial hatred--and of the apology we owe to the families torn apart by acts of racial hatred.

Because of my great respect for Dr. Cameron--and because he has opened our eyes to the great crimes committed by this nation by not ending lynching--I am cosponsoring S. Res. 39, a resolution apologizing to the victims of lynching and the descendants of those victims for the failure of the Senate to enact antilynching legislation. The history of lynching in America is an atrocious one indeed. Between the years 1882 and 1968, some 4,700 people were lynched. And though, over that same period, nearly 200 antilynching bills were proposed, none made it past the Senate.

That lack of action is truly a black mark on this institution's history and legacy. An apology cannot erase our crimes--but an acknowledgment of the costs of our inaction is a first step toward ensuring we never again let hate and racism run unchecked through our great Nation.

http://thomas.loc.gov/

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