1965 Selma Foot Soldiers congressional gold medal designs reviewed
- Published: Jun 16, 2015, 3 PM
Recommending obverse and reverse designs for a congressional gold medal honoring the Foot Soldiers of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March was the task of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee June 16.
The CCAC recommended an obverse design depicting marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. The reverse depicts a voter placing their vote in the ballot box, noting the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Coin World editor-at-large Steve Roach wrote about the Foot Soldiers medal after President Obama signed the legislation clearing its way in March:
In the findings, which provide historical background, the legislation notes, “March 7, 2015, will mark 50 years since the brave Foot Soldiers of the Voting Rights Movement first attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery on ‘Bloody Sunday’ in protest against the denial of their right to vote, and were brutally assaulted by Alabama state troopers.”
On that day, more than 500 voting rights marchers — known as “Foot Soldiers” — gathered on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., “in peaceful protest of the denial of their most sacred and constitutionally protected right — the right to vote.”
As they crossed the bridge, the “Foot Soldiers” were confronted by Alabama state troopers who responded with force, and the event was covered by news stations around the nation. The day would be known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Two days later, Dr. Martin Luther King led nearly 2,500 people for a second, peaceful march, in an event later known as “Turnaround Tuesday.”
The legislation adds, “Fearing for the safety of these Foot Soldiers who received no protection from federal or state authorities during this second march, Dr. King led the marchers to the base of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and stopped. Dr. King kneeled and offered a prayer of solidarity and walked back to the church.”
In response to these marches and other events, President Johnson announced a plan for a voting rights bill to secure voting rights for all U.S. citizens on March 15, 1965.
Here is a comprehensive collection of the designs reviewed by the CCAC on June 16: