Digital History>eXplorations>Lynching>Anti-Lynching Legislation of the 1920s>Walter White to Editor of the New York World

Walter White's Letter to Editor of the New York World (December 27, 1921)

Source: NAACP Papers, Library of Congress

"May I again comment on the position which the World takes on the Dyer Anti-lynching Bill, H. R. 13, which is now pending before Congress. I refer particularly to your editorial of December 27, "Congress Outside the Constitution", in which you declare that in spite of the notorious failure of certain states to stop mob murder, the federal government is without power to correct such evils, and you further argue that attempts to end lynching can only be through state action.

I seriously question the analogy which the World draws when it says, "If Congress is Constitutionally competent to enact an anti-lynching law, it is constitutionally contempt to enact an anti-bandit law and assess damages of ten thousand dollars against the City of New York for every hold-up within its bounds for the benefit or the plundered victims."

If in New York City, for thirty years, bandits had been allowed to ply their trade unmolested, if law officials had passively or actively aided the bandits, and the lives and property of citizens of New York (who are also citizens of the United States) were placed in jeopardy, then Congress most certainly would not only have the right but would be under solemn obligation to enact anti-banditry legislation. The fourteenth amendment to the constitution and Supreme Court decisions under that amendment clearly define the right of Congress to so legislate.

Further, you analogy is faulty when you compare the attempts of law officials in New York to check banditry with those of law officials in certain states to check lynching. Bandits have been apprehended and punished in New York. Whatever their success, officers of the law do check the robbery of citizens of New York. Courts of New York do punish bandits when found guilty.

On the other hand, there have been nearly four thousand known lynchings in the United States during the past thirty-two years. In less than a half dozen cases have lynchers been punished.

Unless the Federal Constitution has become "a scrap of paper", then it is and must ever be able to cope with so alarming and dangerous crime as lynching."

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