By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, February 13, Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) and Corey Booker (D-New Jersey) introduced a bill to give the Congressional Gold Medal to the voting rights marchers who 50 years ago faced tremendous abuse by state troopers (acting on the orders of Alabama Governor George C. Wallace) while attempting to peaceably demonstrate for voting rights.
Senator Sessions said, “It is fitting that we honor the courage and determination of the civil rights marchers at Selma 50 years ago. This was a truly pivotal event in the drive to achieve the right to vote for all Americans—a right which had systematically been denied. This action was historic and dealt a major blow to the deliberate discrimination that existed, producing a positive and lasting change for America. Those who stood tall for freedom on that fateful day deserve to be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.”
Senator Booker said, “We are forever indebted to those brave Americans—men and women of diverse age, color, and creed—who gathered in Selma 50 years ago to march on the front lines in the fight for equality and justice. As an American who stands on the shoulders of their courageous sacrifice, I am proud to honor these unsung heroes who victoriously overcame bigotry and hate by walking in unwavering love and peace.”
The Congressional Gold Medal would recognize 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. This year marks the 50th anniversary of that historic legislation. The medal would be permanently displayed in the Selma Interpretative Center.
Representatives Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and Terri Sewell (D-Selma) have introduced a similar bill in the US House of Representatives and were joined by the entire Alabama House delegation as original cosponsors. The House bill, H.R. 431, passed easily last week.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell said in a statement, “Voting is the most fundamental right we share as Americans. We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave Foot Soldiers who dared to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the face of extreme racial hostility. We should never forget the sacrifices they made so this nation could live up to its ideals of equality and justice for all. The Congressional Gold medal is a great reminder of the power of ordinary Americans to collectively achieve extraordinary social change. This nation should never forget those who marched, prayed and died in the pursuit of civil and voting rights. While we can never truly repay the Foot Soldiers for the sacrifices they made, we can offer a down payment by continuing to fight against injustice wherever it exists.”
The Senate bill has 66 cosponsors to this point, including Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) as well as all members of both the Republican and Democratic leadership teams.
It is hoped that the legislation can pass quickly so that the marchers can get their medal before the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march in March.