At a ceremony held yesterday at the U.S. Capitol Building, a Congressional Gold Medal was awarded posthumously to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley. These four young black girls lost their lives in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963. The bombing and death of the four girls served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement and contributed to support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Congressional Gold Medal was authorized under Public Law 113-11, which provided only broad guidance on the design for the medal. The medal was to be “of appropriate design to commemorate the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley” and contain “suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions.” The final designs were selected by the Treasury of the Secretary in consultation with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.
The obverse design features a silhouette of the four girls, with inscriptions of their names around the outer border of the design. Additional inscriptions “Pivotal in the Struggle for Equality” and “September 13 1963” appear incused across the silhouettes. The obverse was designed by Barbara Fox an engraved by Jim Licaretz.
The reverse depicts a view of the 16th Street Baptist Church. The inscriptions include “Act of Congress 2013” above, “Killed in the Bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church” to the left, and “Birmingham, Alabama” beneath. The reverse was designed by Donna Weaver and engraved by Joseph Menna.
The United States Mint will offer bronze reproductions of the Congressional Gold Medal. The 3-inch bronze medal is priced at $39.95 and the 1.5-inch bronze medal is priced at $6.95. These will go on sale today, September 11, 2013 at 12:00 Noon ET.
The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing Victims Bronze Medal is issued ahead of next year’s 2014 Civil Rights Act of 1964 Silver Dollar. Designs for the commemortive silver dollar were recently covered on Coin Update News.
In the coming year, I could see the US Mint potentially issuing a special numismatic product incorporating both the medal and silver dollar. Several of the candidate designs for the silver dollar utilized a similar silhouetted style as the medal obverse, although the CFA and CCAC have supported alternative designs.