WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, February 24, leaders of the U.S. House and Senate will present a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of the Foot Soldiers of the 1965 Voting Rights Marches, a group of men and women who peacefully marched from Selma to Montgomery in protest of the denial of their right to vote.
In early 1965, as part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement to register African American voters in the South, peaceful activists attempted a march from Selma, AL, to Montgomery, AL. After multiple attempts met with heavy and violent resistance by authorities, including the marches infamously known as Bloody Sunday and Turnaround Tuesday, nearly 8,000 Foot Soldiers safely arrived at the Alabama State Capitol, bringing national attention to the struggle for voting rights. This served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law later that year.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will take part in the bipartisan, bicameral ceremony.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor the United States Congress can bestow. In accordance with Public Law No:114-5, a single gold medal has been struck to honor the Foot Soldiers of the 1965 Voting Rights Marches for their bravery and sacrifice. For more on the history of the Congressional Gold Medal, watch this behind-the-scenes video.
The ceremony will take place on February 24, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. ET in Emancipation Hall, and will be live-streamed at speaker.gov/live.