This Day in the Law
October 21

President Harding Condemns Lynching (1921)

On October 21, 1921, President Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States, condemned lynching in a speech that he delivered in Birmingham, Alabama. He was the first sitting president to speak out against such illegal hangings. These barbarous acts were most common amongst white supremacists who despised African Americans in the Deep South of the United States. Racism was intense in this region, especially during the 1920s. In fact, the President was met with great opposition as a result of his condemnation of lynching.

Although tagged as a Republican, President Harding had progressive views with respect to equality for women and African Americans. He supported women in their quest to obtain the right to vote, and he advocated for equal civil rights for African Americans. Prior to achieving the American Presidency, Harding supported the Dyer Anti-lynching Bill. After successfully making it through the House of Representatives, the bill was sent to the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, that is where the bill ultimately died.

It wasn’t until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that civil rights for African Americans were legally recognized. Forty-plus years after President Harding advocated for equality, his progressive views became a legal reality.