Pryor Supports Apology for Past Sins of the U.S. Senate; Acknowledges the Senate's Failure to Adopt Anti Lynching Legislation
WASHINGTON D.C. - Senator Mark Pryor today will speak on behalf of a resolution that formally apologizes to the victims of lynchings and the descendants of those victims for the U.S. Senate's failure to pass legislation that would have made the practice a federal crime.
Pryor said Senate Resolution 32 acknowledges that the Senate, through its actions and inaction, cultivated and condoned lynching which was widely practiced in the U.S. until the middle of the 20th Century. Despite public outcry and the support of seven U.S. Presidents to make lynching a federal crime, some members of the Senate actively sought to defeat such legislation. Pryor said that the House of Representatives passed strong legislation to stop lynching three times between 1920 and 1940, but the Senate blocked each of the bills.
"I would like to express my sincere apologies and regret to the victims of lynchings and the descendants of those victims, that this body failed to help them at a time when they needed it the most," Pryor said."
Between 1882 and 1968 at least 4,742 people, predominantly African American, were lynched in the U.S. Pryor said a number of these lynchings occurred in Arkansas, including 318 incidents between the years 1860-1936. Of this number, 230 individuals were black, including 6 females.
"Arkansas has too many lynching incidents in its history, ranging from the Elaine Race Riot of 1919 to the infamous lynching of John Carter that should have and could have been prevented," Pryor said. "Had the Senate passed a federal law, real legal protections and resources could have prevented many of these violent crimes."
Pryor said that although anti-lynching legislation should have been enacted decades ago, today's resolution has relevance and will ensure that these tragedies will neither be forgotten nor repeated.
"Admitting the Senate's failure and apologizing for our mistakes encourages Americans to learn and heal from this dark chapter in our history," Pryor said. "This resolution is an opportunity to look at how far our nation has come in addressing equality and discrimination and to acknowledge how much further we must go from here. We can start by rededicating ourselves the advancement of civil rights and equality, and closing the divide that continues to plague our neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. I am afraid that if we don't truly start addressing inequities in these areas, we will look back once again at the Senate's inaction with disappointment."