National Conference on Lynching
The National Conference on Lynching took place in Carnegie Hall, New York City, May 5–6, 1919. The goal of the Conference was to pressure Congress to pass the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. It was a project of the new NAACP, which in April released a report, Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918.
Keynote speaker was Charles Evans Hughes, former Governor of New York and Secretary of State, Supreme Court Justice, and failed candidate for President in the 1916 presidential election. "Hughes told the crowd that black soldiers who demonstrated bravery, honor, and loyalty in Europe deserved equal protection under the law back home.":53 He and other Republicans were not for racial equality, but equal protection under the law. "His remark were directed, in part, at his political nemesis President Wilson,":53 a Southerner and segregationist. Lengthy quotes from his speech appeared in The New York Times (on page 15).
The only African American to address the crowd was James Weldon Johnson, Field Secretary of the NAACP. "Johnson worked to make attending whites... so uncomfortable that they would press political leaders for a federal anti-lynching law.":36 Other speakers were the suffragist Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, who portrayed women's suffrage as a means to attack lynching, and Emmet O'Neal, former Governor of Alabama, who spoke on a governor's responsibility to ensure that local law enforcement is enforcing the law.
The conference was immediately followed, the same day in Carnegie Hall, by a "mass meeting" of the Society for Ethical Culture, at which the NAACP President and lynching conference organizer Moorfield Storey was the featured speaker.
The conference had only a limited impact, as it was preaching to the choir, and it did not enjoy as much publicity as its organizers hoped it would. It did have a positive effect on African Americans; NAACP membership grew greatly. In January 1918 the NAACP had 9,200 members; by May 1919 it had more than 62,000.:81
The Bill never passed since it was blocked by a Southern filibuster. It was not until December 2018 that the Senate passed (unanimously) legislation prohibiting lynching, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act; approval in the House of Representatives is pending (as of January 25, 2019).
- McWhirter, Cameron (2011). Red Summer. The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America. Henry Holt. ISBN 9780805089066.
- "Hughes Condemns Lynching of Negro [sic]". The New York Times. May 6, 1919. p. 15.
- "Advertisement for the National Conference on Lynching". New York Age. May 3, 1919. p. 8.
- Egwuonwu, Nnamdi. "Senate Unanimously Passes Anti-Lynching Bill". Newsy. Retrieved 2018-12-20.
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