During a ceremony held yesterday at the Capitol Rotunda, the Congressional Gold Medal was posthumously awarded to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The medal was accepted by Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
This Congressional Gold Medal had originally been authorized under Public Law 108-368, enacted on October 25, 2004. The act had specified that the gold medal should be awarded on behalf of the Congress to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his widow Coretta Scott King in recognition of their contributions to the Nation on behalf of the civil rights movement.
After Coretta Scott King passed away on January 30, 2006, separate legislation had to be passed to allow the medal to be given to the Smithsonian Institution, where it will be made available for display and research. This was Public Law 113-118, enacted on June 9, 2014.
The obverse design of the medal features portraits of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. Their names appear inscribed above, along with “Act of Congress 2004”. A banner at the base carries the inscription “For Their Service to Humanity”.
The reverse design features the image of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Below the image is a quote from Dr. King reflecting his beliefs of nonviolent social change. The lower half of the medal is encircled by a laurel wreath. The quote reads: “I suggest that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, by no means excluding the relations between nations. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.”
The United States Mint is offering 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. The bronze medals went on sale today, June 25, 2014.
Previous Congressional Gold Medals awarded in relation to the Civil Rights Movement include a medal awarded to Rosa Parks under an Act of Congress in 1999, Dr. Dorothy Height under an Act of Congress in 2003, and the four girls who died in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing under an Act of Congress in 2013.
This year, the United States Mint has also issued commemorative silver dollars to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The most recent sales report shows orders placed for 53,034 proofs and 21,730 uncirculated coins for a combined total of 74,764 from the 350,000 maximum mintage.
The Mint has previously indicated that a special Civil Rights Act of 1964 Tell Your Story Set will be released later this year, The set will contain the silver dollar and include a space for someone to share a personal story about their participation in the events leading up to, or how they have been impacted by, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.