Digital History>eXplorations>Lynching>Anti-Lynching Legislation of the 1920s>Moorfield Storey to William Borah


Moorfield Storey's Letter to Senator William Borah (June 5, 1922)

Source: NAACP Papers, Library of Congress

… It is a disgrace to this country for the Senate to say that not only that this bill is bad, but that the power to pass a good bill does not exist. This is practically saying to the colored People of the United States, "You can be murdered, burned and robbed with absolute impunity and this country which uses you as soldiers and taxes you as citizens cannot help you". Are you prepared to say this? I fancy that if the question whether the Fourteenth amendment would justify the legislation which we ask for were presented to you as a new question, you would agree with me, but you feel bound by the decisions which the Supreme Court of the United States has rendered on substantially different questions. My feeling is that the Senate of the United States has a right to construe this amendment for itself and to challenge the Supreme Court of the United States to change its position.

If sitting on the Supreme Court and dealing with this question as a new question, you would insist that there was no power of the Federal Government to protect the colored people, I could not quarrel with your speaking and voting accordingly, nor would I for a moment suggest that you should vote against your conscientious convictions. But your feeling in this matter is an opinion on a doubtful question of law, and in such cases no lawyer violate his conscience by putting the question in the way of being settled by the highest court. I feel that you ought not to be so sure that you are right as not to do this. If I understand your position you feel that some such law against lynching ought to be enacted, but question the power to pass it. Your proposed action destroys the chance of having such a law, because you are sure that you are right on a doubtful question. For Heaven's sake, do not tell the negroes that their case is hopeless, that this great country cannot protect them from absolute wanton murder with the connivance and of ten with the assistance of the officers appointed by law to defend them, and with absolute indifference on the part of the United States.

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