President Obama signed legislation in December that allows the Department of Justice and the FBI to reopen unsolved civil rights crimes.
The Emmett Till Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016 grants the agencies opportunity to pursue crimes committed before 1980. The legislation is an expansion of a previous bill of a similar name signed into law in 2008.
The original bill, named after 14-year-old Emmett Till who was kidnapped and brutally lynched by two white men for whistling at a white woman in 1955, was first introduced by activist Alvin Sykes in 2005. Sykes promised Till’s mom that he would pursue her son’s case after the two men were acquitted, USA Today reports. As a part of his ongoing mission to seek justice for racially-motivated crimes, Sykes named the bill after Till.
Since the bill was introduced, the FBI has investigated more than 100 cold cases. The updated act encourages the agencies to reach out to “activists, advocates and academics working on these issues,” according to USA Today.
The law calls for “the full accounting of all victims whose deaths or disappearances were the result of racially-motivated crimes” and for authorities to hold criminals accountable. The law summary also states that the DOJ and FBI will keep families regularly informed about the status of the investigations and make case information accessible to the public.