Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a strand that tied American civil
rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s together, from the 1955
Montgomery Bus Boycott to the March on Washington in 1963.
It was there in the nation’s capital that he firmly established his
reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history with his
“I Have a Dream” speech.
But James Earl Ray would cut short the Baptist minister's life on
April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., as King spoke
in support of black sanitation workers. His violent death was in
contrast with King’s legacy for advancing civil rights using
nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.
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A congressional gold medal was awarded posthumously to King and his
wife, Coretta Scott King, in recognition of their many contributions
to the nation on behalf of the civil rights movement.
The obverse design features portraits of Dr. King and Coretta Scott
King. Beneath the portraits is a banner with the inscription FOR THEIR
SERVICE TO HUMANITY. Other inscriptions include DR. MARTIN LUTHER
KING, JR. AND CORETTA SCOTT KING along the top of the medal, along
with ACT OF CONGRESS 2004.
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The reverse features an image of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center
for Nonviolent Social Change, which remains the official legacy of Dr.
King’s dream of nonviolent social change and full civil rights for all
Americans. Below the image of the center is a quote reflecting Dr.
King’s thoughts about nonviolent social change. A wreath of laurel
cups the lower half of the medal.
The United States Mint currently offers bronze duplicates of the medal in testament to
the legacy and impact of the famed leader.