Congresswoman Sewell Joins Colleagues to Award Congressional Gold Medal to the Foot Soldiers of the 1965 Voting Rights Marches
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL-7) released the following statement on joining her Congressional colleagues in a ceremony to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on the Foot Soldiers whose courageous journey from Selma to Montgomery led to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965:
“Today, the American people, through their Congressional representatives, bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal upon the courageous Foot Soldiers who dared to march in 1965 for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. The right to vote is one of the most fundamental and sacred rights we share as Americans. Every American owes a debt of gratitude to those brave men and women who sacrificed so that all Americans could participate in our democracy. The sacrifices made by these Foot Soldiers compelled this nation to live up to its ideals of equality for all and ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Right Act of 1965. The Congressional Gold Medal ceremony should serve as a powerful reminder of the power of ordinary Americans to collectively achieve extraordinary social change.
“I am proud to have Rev. Frederick D. Reese of Selma receive this great honor on behalf of the Foot Soldiers who participated in 1965 Selma to Montgomery Marches. Rev. Reese was the leader of the Dallas County Voter League that first invited Dr. King to Selma. For over fifty years, Rev. Reese has stood as a stalwart of the voting rights movement. His acceptance of this Congressional Gold Medal is emblematic of everyone who marched, prayed and died in the pursuit of civil and voting rights in America.
“As a direct beneficiary of their sacrifices, I am honored that we finally pay tribute to these heroic men and women with the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow. It is because of the Foot Soldiers that I have the privilege of being the first black Congresswoman to represent the State of Alabama. While we can never truly repay the Foot Soldiers for the sacrifices they made, we honor their legacy by continuing the ongoing fight to preserve and protect the voting rights of all Americans.”
About the Congressional Gold Medal
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions. The medal was first awarded in 1776 by the second Continental Congress to General George Washington.
About the 1965 Marches from Selma to Montgomery
Voting rights activists were brutally attacked by Alabama state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965. This day, now known as Bloody Sunday, was the first of three planned, peaceful protests from Selma to Montgomery. Nearly 2,500 Foot Soldiers led by Dr. Martin Luther King attempted a second march two days later on March 9, 1965, now known as “Turnaround Tuesday.” Ultimately, an estimated 8,000 Foot Soldiers left Selma on March 21, 1965, and successfully marched to Montgomery to peacefully protest restrictive voting laws that prevented African-Americans from voting. These marches led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 6, 1965.