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Virginia Sen. George Allen says body should apologize for refusing to support anti-lynching legislation in the past.
Date published: 10/3/2004
By MICHAEL ZITZ
Sen. George Allen says that if the United States is to be successful in promoting freedom around the world, it must acknowledge the "warts" on its own history.
So the Virginia Republican has joined with Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, to co-sponsor a resolution issuing an apology for the Senate's refusal to support anti-lynching legislation to help stem the tide of thousands of racially motivated murders from 1890 to 1964.
"We're proud of our history in Virginia and America," Allen said during an interview with The Free Lance-Star. "But there are certain things you ought to apologize for. The Senate should apologize."
Allen said 4,749 people, mostly blacks, were hanged, flogged and torched to death--all acts defined as "lynching" in all regions of the country.
"Despite these vile acts against the innocent, the United States Senate failed to pass one piece of legislation making lynching a federal crime," Allen said in a written statement last week calling for an apology.
"This resolution has us on record admitting there are warts on our history," Allen explained in a telephone interview. "But it's the greatest country on the face of the Earth.
"As we try to fight injustice around the world, we must recognize sometimes we made mistakes," he said.
"This isn't about reparations," Allen said. It is about acknowledging that the Senate should have been more aggressive in trying to stem the tide of lynchings in an 80-year period of terror that ended for the most part when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
Seven presidents requested anti-lynching legislation, but a law was never enacted.
From 1882 to 1968, at least 200 separate bills were introduced in Congress to make lynching a federal crime, Allen said. The U.S. House passed three of those bills, but, Allen said, a group of senators opposed to such protection blocked the legislation through filibusters and other tactics during the first half of the 20th century.
The apology legislation is being supported by civil-rights movement veterans including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., E. Faye Williams, Martin Luther King III, C. Delores Tucker and Janet Langhart.