The Selma Foot Soldiers, whose protests in 1965 helped lead to passage of the Voting Rights Act, were recognized Feb. 24 on Capitol Hill with a congressional gold medal.
The ceremonies were held in Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center.
The enabling legislation, Public Law 114-5, was signed into law by President Obama on March 7, 2015, the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, so named for the protesters' blood spilled by Alabama State Police. It was the first of three marches attempted from Selma, Ala., to the state capital to Montgomery, in search of equality in the voting process.
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The marchers had assembled on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to begin their quest. The hundreds of protesters were led by John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which attempted to register African-Americans to vote throughout the state of Alabama, and the Rev. Hosea Williams, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Lewis is currently a U.S. congressman who has represented Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since elected to Congress in November 1986. Lewis is senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House.
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Williams, who continued his civil rights efforts and community service for decades, died at age 74 in 2000.
The obverse design of the congressional gold medal was created by U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program artist Donna Weaver. Weaver is a former sculptor-engraver for the U.S. Mint who retired from government service in 2006 after six years on the Mint's staff. The design was sculptured by U.S. Mint Medallic Sculptor Phebe Hemphill.