US Coins

Civil rights pioneer could get congressional gold medal

Recent legislation seeks a congressional gold medal for Sarah Keys Evans, a pioneer in the battle for equal rights for black Americans.

Image from the U.S. Army Facebook page.

Legislation introduced Nov. 9 seeks a congressional gold medal to recognize Sarah Keys Evans’ contribution to the civil rights movement in 1952.

H.R. 5922, introduced in the House by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services for further consideration.

Evans was a private first class in the Women’s Army Corps when she was arrested Aug. 1, 1952, for refusing to give up her seat to a white Marine as she traveled from Fort Dix in New Jersey to her hometown in Washington, North Carolina. The arrest happened in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, during an unscheduled bus driver switch.

Evans filed a bus segregation complaint in 1953 with the Interstate Commerce Commission claiming the arrest violated the Interstate Commerce Act. In Sarah Evans vs. The Carolina Coach Company, in 1955, the Interstate Commerce Commission ruled in Evans’ favor, breaking with its historic adherence to the Plessy v. Ferguson separate but equal doctrine, and interpreted the nondiscrimination language of the Interstate Commerce Act as banning the segregation of black passengers in buses traveling across state lines.

If the legislation becomes law, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen may order the U.S. Mint to produce and release for public sale 1.5-inch and 3-inch bronze duplicates of the gold medal.

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