Awarding 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 1965by Representative Bill Huizenga
Posted on 2015-02-11
HUIZENGA of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules
and pass the bill (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.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of the bill is as follows: H.R. 431 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. FINDINGS.
The Congress finds the following: (1) March 7, 2015, will mark 50 years since the brave Foot Soldiers of the Voting Rights Movement first attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery on ``Bloody Sunday'' in protest against the denial of their right to vote, and were brutally assaulted by Alabama state troopers.
(2) Beginning in 1964, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee attempted to register African- Americans to vote throughout the state of Alabama.
(3) These efforts were designed to ensure that every American citizen would be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote and have their voices heard.
(4) By December of 1964, many of these efforts remained unsuccessful. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., working with leaders from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, began to organize protests throughout Alabama.
(5) On March 7, 1965, over 500 voting rights marchers known as ``Foot Soldiers'' gathered on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in peaceful protest of the denial of their most sacred and constitutionally protected right--the right to vote.
(6) Led by John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Rev. Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, these Foot Soldiers began the march towards the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama.
(7) As the Foot Soldiers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were confronted by a wall of Alabama state troopers who brutally attacked and beat them.
(8) Americans across the country witnessed this tragic turn of events as news stations [[Page H931]] broadcasted the brutality on a day that would be later known as ``Bloody Sunday.'' (9) Two days later on Tuesday, March 9, 1965, nearly 2,500 Foot Soldiers led by Dr. Martin Luther King risked their lives once more and attempted a second peaceful march starting at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This second attempted march was later known as ``Turnaround Tuesday.'' (10) Fearing for the safety of these Foot Soldiers who received no protection from federal or state authorities during this second march, Dr. King led the marchers to the base of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and stopped. Dr. King kneeled and offered a prayer of solidarity and walked back to the church.
(11) President Lyndon B. Johnson, inspired by the bravery and determination of these Foot Soldiers and the atrocities they endured, announced his plan for a voting rights bill aimed at securing the precious right to vote for all citizens during an address to Congress on March 15, 1965.
(12) On March 17, 1965, one week after ``Turnaround Tuesday'', U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson ruled the Foot Soldiers had a First Amendment right to petition the government through peaceful protest, and ordered federal agents to provide full protection to the Foot Soldiers during the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March.
(13) Judge Johnson's decision overturned Alabama Governor George Wallace's prohibition on the protest due to public safety concerns.
(14) On March 21, 1965, under the court order, the U.S. Army, the federalized Alabama National Guard, and countless federal agents and marshals escorted nearly 8,000 Foot Soldiers from the start of their heroic journey in Selma, Alabama to their safe arrival on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol Building on March 25, 1965.
(15) The extraordinary bravery and sacrifice these Foot Soldiers displayed in pursuit of a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery brought national attention to the struggle for equal voting rights, and served as the catalyst for Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which President Johnson signed into law on August 6, 1965.
(16) To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Movement and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it is befitting that Congress bestow the highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, in 2015, to the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday or the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March during March of 1965, which served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
SEC. 2. CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL.
(a) Presentation Authorized.--The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate shall make appropriate arrangements for the presentation, on behalf of Congress, of a gold medal of appropriate design to the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March during March of 1965, which served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
(b) Design and Striking.--For purposes of the presentation referred to in subsection (a), the Secretary of the Treasury (referred to in this Act as the ``Secretary'') shall strike a gold medal with suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions to be determined by the Secretary.
(c) Award of Medal.--Following the award of the gold medal described in subsection (a), the medal shall be given to the Selma Interpretative Center in Selma, Alabama, where it shall be available for display or temporary loan to be displayed elsewhere, as appropriate.
SEC. 3. DUPLICATE MEDALS.
The Secretary may strike and sell duplicates in bronze of the gold medal struck pursuant to section 2 under such regulations as the Secretary may prescribe, at a price sufficient to cover the cost thereof, including labor, materials, dies, use of machinery, and overhead expenses, and the cost of the gold medal.
SEC. 4. STATUS OF MEDALS.
(a) National Medals.--The medals struck pursuant to this Act are national medals for purposes of chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code.
(b) Numismatic Items.--For purposes of sections 5134 and 5136 of title 31, United States Code, all medals struck under this Act shall be considered to be numismatic items.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Huizenga) and the gentlewoman from Alabama (Ms. Sewell) each will control 20 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Michigan.
General Leave Mr. HUIZENGA of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and to insert extraneous materials into the Record concerning H.R. 431, currently under consideration.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Michigan? There was no objection.
Mr. HUIZENGA of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this very important bill, H.R. 431, a bipartisan bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the foot soldiers, the courageous men and women who participated in historic days such as Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, and the final March from Selma to Montgomery to ensure voting rights for African Americans.
Mr. Speaker, sometimes, it is hard for people in today's society to realize the historical significance of the events that took place in the past. For younger people, it may seem like a lifetime ago, but for those who lived through those experiences, it may seem like it just happened yesterday.
One series of events that we cannot and must not allow to fade away are the historic marches that began in Selma in the spring of 1956. On March 7, 1965, led by two fearless men, the Reverend Hosea Williams and a man many in this Chamber know well, Representative John Lewis, 500 of those brave foot soldiers determined to have their voices heard and their right to vote be recognized as they bravely lined up at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
These initial marchers were then brutally assaulted and beaten by Alabama State troopers as they attempted to cross the bridge, seeking to assert their constitutional right to vote. That atrocity became known as Bloody Sunday.
Two days later, nearly 2,500 foot soldiers, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., peacefully assembled and again attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The group marched to where the attacks occurred a few days before on Bloody Sunday, and at Dr. King's request, they stopped and knelt in prayer. Following the prayer, the marchers turned around and returned to Selma.
Finally then, on March 21, under the protection of the U.S. Army, Federal marshals, and the federalized Alabama National Guard at that point, that group had swollen to 8,000 foot soldiers who were escorted safely for 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery.
By the time the march reached the steps of the State capitol, that group had grown to approximately 25,000 people strong there on those steps in Montgomery.
Mr. Speaker, instead of bringing the campaign to search for voting rights to a halt, 50 years ago, the photographs and blurry television images of that violent attack on Bloody Sunday on that bridge galvanized the national attention. In fact, the first march was a catalyst for action.
Just 5 short months after the first march, Congress had passed and President Johnson had signed into law the Voting Rights Act.
Mr. Speaker, we, as a Nation, must do more to ensure voting rights are protected for all Americans, and in doing so, we must remember the sacrifices of those individuals who came before us and worked so tirelessly to make a difference and to create voting rights equality.
It is truly a privilege for me personally to stand before you today as Congress recognizes these brave men and women and the historical significance of those marches that began in Selma and forever changed the direction of our great Nation.
I thank the gentlewoman from Alabama (Ms. Sewell) for highlighting these historic events, and I urge all of my colleagues to support H.R. 431.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.