1965 Foot Soldiers will receive Congressional award

Published 11:09 pm Thursday, February 12, 2015

By Tyra Jackson

The Selma Times-Journal

Voting rights Foot Soldiers will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their courage, which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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The U.S. House passed the commendation Wednesday in a bill sponsored by Rep. Terri Sewell of Selma.

The medal is one of the highest awards given by the U.S. Congress and must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate before being considered.

“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,” Sewell said.

Sewell said the medal is a reminder that ordinary Americans who possess strength can achieve extraordinary social change, Sewell said.

“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.”

Sewell thanked Rep. Martha Roby of Montgomery and all of the members of the Alabama Congressional delegation for supporting H.R. 431. Along with Sewell, Roby, who represents Alabama’s 2nd congressional district, is an initial sponsor.

“I’m proud to be part of this bill to honor the legacy of the brave individuals who took a stand for equal rights in Alabama against brutality and oppression,” Roby said.

As Alabama’s first black congresswoman, Sewell said she owes much to the Foot Soldiers and their bravery.

“The journey of the foot soldiers we honor today was not an easy one,” she said. “They were discriminated by whites, and ostracized by blacks who were afraid to join them. Still they persevered because they could no longer bear the burden of second-class citizenship.”