US Coins

Medal proposed for Civil Rights activist, educator

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland would be honored by a congressional gold medal under legislation now before congress.

Image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution/Library of Congress.

Legislation has been introduced to recognize Civil Rights activist and Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland with a congressional gold medal for her life-long commitment to social justice and equality at great personal risk.

H.R. 8521 was introduced May 23 in the House by Reps. Don Beyer, D-Virginia, and Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi.

“We are proud of the achievements and contributions of our mother and her example to do what was right even when it wasn’t easy during the tumultuous times of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Loki Mulholland, founder and executive director of the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation. “Her courage, fortitude and belief that our country can truly live up to its founding ideals that everyone is created equal and should be treated as such is a worthy example of being a true citizen of our great nation. We’re grateful for Reps. Beyer and Thompson’s work in recognizing her contribution and presenting this opportunity for her to be honored by Congress.”

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland first became involved in the Civil Rights movement while attending Duke University. In 1961, she joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Rides to integrate interstate travel facilities throughout the South and was subsequently arrested.

Mulholland, now 82, was one of the Freedom Riders arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1961, and was confined for two months in the Maximum Security Unit of the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Once released from custody, she enrolled at the historically black Tougaloo College in Jackson, where she became the first full-time white student in the history of the college.

After graduating from Tougaloo College, she relocated back to Arlington, Virginia, where she raised five children and served for more than 30 years as an educator.

In 2023, Trumpauer Mulholland was honored by the Virginia General Assembly and received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tougaloo College.

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