US Coins

Selma Foot Soldiers receive congressional gold medal

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.

Connect with Coin World:  

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.

FREE REPORT: How to Invest in Rare Coins

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.

The design captures the Selma Foot Soldiers with arms locked as they march en masse across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

FREE REPORT: How to Invest in Rare Coins

The adopted obverse is slightly modified from that recommended June 16 and June 18, 2015, respectively, by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and Commission of Fine Arts.

The top and bottom border inscriptions are switched from the reviewed design, reading on the final product as SELMA TO MONTGOMERY MARCHES 1965 along the top border and FOOT SOLDIERS FOR JUSTICE along the bottom border. The wide rim from the original sketch of the recommended obverse design was removed, with that element moved to the reverse.

Weaver also designed the reverse, which was sculptured by U.S. Mint Medallic Sculptor Michael Gaudioso. The design's central device depicts an individual's left hand placing a completed ballot into a ballot box, all superimposed over an American flag. President Lyndon B. Johnson's quote, EVERY AMERICAN CITIZEN MUST HAVE AN EQUAL RIGHT TO VOTE, appears in the wide rim, a modification from the reviewed design where it appeared as six lines in the central field. VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965 appears in two lines on the ballot box.

Three-inch and 1.5-inch bronze duplicates of the congressional gold medal are authorized to be offered for sale to the public by the U.S. Mint.

Community Comments