H.R. 431, To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in March of 1965, which served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965

H.R. 431

To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in March of 1965, which served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Sponsor
Rep. Terri Sewell

Date
February 11, 2015 (114th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, February 11, 2015, the House will consider H.R. 431, a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in March of 1965, which served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, under a suspension of the rules.  H.R. 431 was introduced on January 21, 2015 by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and referred to the Committee on Financial Services.

Bill Summary

H.R. 431 authorizes the striking and award of a single gold medal in recognition of the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in March of 1965.  The bill would additionally authorize the striking and sale of bronze duplicates of the medal, at a price intended to recoup the costs of designing and striking the gold medal.

Background

March 7, 2015 marks 50 years since members of the Voting Rights Movement attempted to march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama on “Bloody Sunday” in protest against the denial of their right to vote.[1]  On the march, they were brutally assaulted by Alabama state troopers.

In 1964, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee attempted to register African-Americans to vote throughout Alabama, but were largely unsuccessful throughout much of 1964.[2]  In December of 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began to work with a number of civil rights leaders to organize protests throughout Alabama.[3]  On March 7, 1965, over 500 voting rights activists known as “Foot Soldiers” gathered on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in peaceful protest of the denial of their right to vote.[4]  The protestors, led by John Lewis and Rev. Hosea Williams, began a march toward the Alabama State Capitol.[5]  As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were confronted by a wall of Alabama state troopers who brutally attacked and beat them; this event would come to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”[6]

Two days later, on March 9, 1965, Dr. King led 2,500 Foot Soldiers on another attempted march starting at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  Fearing for the safety of the Foot Soldiers, who received no protection from federal or state authorities, Dr. King kneeled and offered a prayer of solidarity at the base of the bridge before walking back into the church; this even became known as “Turnaround Tuesday.”[7]  Inspired by the bravery and determination of the Foot Soldiers, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his plan for a voting rights bill that would guarantee the right to vote for all citizens during a March 15, 1965 address to Congress.[8]  One week after “Turnaround Tuesday,” on March 17, 1965, U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson ruled that the Foot Soldiers had a constitutional right to petition the government peacefully, and ordered federal agents to provide full protection to the Foot Soldiers during the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March, overturning Alabama Governor George Wallace’s prohibition on the protest.[9]  On March 21, 1965, the U.S. Army, the federalized Alabama National Guard, and federal agents and marshals escorted 8,000 Foot Soldiers from Selma, Alabama to the Alabama State Capitol Building on March 25, 1965.[10]  The march was a catalyst for Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law on August 6, 1965.[11]

__________
[1] See H.R. 431.
[2] See Id.
[3] See Id.
[4] See Id.
[5] See Id.
[6] See Id.
[7] See Id.
[8] See Id.
[9] See Id.
[10] See Id.
[11] See Id.

Cost

The cost to produce the die and strike the gold medal is offset by the sale of bronze duplicates of the medal. The Congressional Budget Office (CBP) has issued an informal opinion that implementing H.R. 431 will have “no significant impact on the federal budget.”

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.