Crime Conference: 1934
A picket line sponsored by the NAACP calls for anti-lynching legislation to be considered and recommended by the U.S. crime conference held in the DAR Memorial Continental Hall in Washington, D.C. December 11, 1934.

Pickets from left to right: Roy W. Wilkins, assistant secretary of the NAACP; George B. Murphy, Jr., editor of the Washington Afro-American; Emmett Dorsey, professor of political science at Howard University; and Edward Lovett, attorney of the Washington, DC NAACP branch.

Howard University law school dean Charles Hamilton Houston is standing on the right. Houston would leave the post shortly after the picket to become the NAACP general counsel.

The NAACP waged a months-long campaign to get the issue on the agenda of Attorney General Homer S. Cummings’ National Crime Conference. However Cummings refused to put the issue on the conference schedule

D.C police also refused to issue a permit for picketing and arrested the four participants minutes after the picketing began.

Washington had a sign law prohibiting advertising signs and police used this to halt the picketing.

The NAACP did not give up, two days later 70 protesters—mainly Howard University students—greeted the conference silently with nooses around their necks and small signs that were under the size of those prohibited.

Despite the efforts of the attorney general to prohibit any discussion, the conference adopted a weak resolution which read, “That the conference condemns the use of methods of dealing with industrial conflicts and racial antagonisms which are not in accord with orderly and lawful procedures and urges the administration of all phases of public safety by legally constituted law enforcement agencies only.”

A campaign for an anti-lynching law began two decades earlier and never succeeded despite passing the House of Representatives on numerous occasions, but always died due to a filibuster by Southern Democrats in the Senate.

The first successful federal prosecutions for a lynching occurred after the disappearance of civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Schwerner and Goodman were white and their murder and subsequent burial in an earthen dam in Mississippi created national pressure on the federal government to take action.

Eighteen individuals were charged by the federal government in 1967 for violating the three men’s civil rights after the failure of the state to prosecute. Seven were convicted and received relatively minor sentences.
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