NIGHTMARE AND DREAM: ANTILYNCHING IN CONGRESS, 1917-1922
FERRELL, CLAUDINE L.
Doctor of Philosophy
During and immediately following World War I, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People broadened its antilynching program to include a demand for a federal antilynching statute. Seeking the organization's support, several congressmen--most notably Republican Leonidas C. Dyer of Missouri--also sought to push through Congress an antilynching bill based on the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. However, amidst concern that such a law might have a harmful, long-term impact on the racial order and on a federal system based on shared sovereignty and state rights, Congress and the NAACP initially concentrated on a war-powers bill. The end of the war and the continuation of lynching, however, soon caused the NAACP and its advisers, including NAACP president Moorfield Storey, former attorney general George Wickersham, and reformer Albert Pillsbury, to seek a broader based bill that did not conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment's operational meaning as defined by the Supreme Court. By 1921, when Dyer introduced his third antilynching bill, the Association also sought in Congress sufficient support to overcome racist and state rights theories that supported southern lynching of black "offenders" and northern apathy toward the South's "Negro problem." In its congressional battle, the NAACP used constitutional, humanitarian, and political arguments. In response, the House Judiciary Committee favorably reported Dyer's H. R. 13 in October 1921 and the full House passed it on January 26, 1922. After failing to convince Republican William E. Borah of his duty to champion H. R. 13's constitutionality, the NAACP succeeded in averting an unfavorable vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee in the summer of 1922. And although unable to push the Senate to a vote prior to the 1922 elections, the organization attempted during a special two-week session in late November to persuade Republican Senators to fulfill their party's antilynching "pledge." The effort failed. Without access to the political weapons it used before the elections, the NAACP impotently watched as a determined Southern Democratic filibuster ended in the Republicans' official abandonment of H. R. 13 on December 4, 1922.