WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional leaders commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act on Tuesday by posthumously bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal upon Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, for their efforts in passing the landmark legislation.
The Kings' children, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King and Bernice A. King, accepted the honor in the Capitol Rotunda as several hundred looked on. The civil rights leader was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968. His wife died in 2006.
"The Civil Rights Act transformed our country," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said. "It made America more American."
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964. It helped end legal discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion and national origin, and many consider it the most significant law to come out of the civil rights movement.
Among those joining Pelosi in praising the Civil Rights Act and the people who made it happen were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
Throughout the lawmakers' remarks were calls for a return to the bipartisanship that made laws like theCivil Rights Act possible.
Remembering the civil rights activists who marched, protested and faced brutality and violence is vital, the lawmakers said. But they added that it was important to remember the lawmakers who made passage possible.
Boehner said the Civil Rights Act might be the "most fundamental, the most consequential legislation" in American history. McConnell said that Martin Luther King Jr. deserves as much credit as any lawmaker in getting the law passed.
"His role was not just to expose or to confront injustice, but to prepare the country to actually do something about it," McConnell said.
It was the second Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Kings for their contributions to the civil rightsmovement. The previous medal was awarded in 2004.
Bernice King said in a statement that she and her brothers were deeply honored that their parents were recognized for their "tireless and sacrificial leadership to advance freedom and justice."
The King siblings have been locked in a legal dispute over the ownership of King's Bible and Nobel Peace Prize. The Martin Luther King Jr. Estate Inc., which is run by Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King, wants to sell the items, while Bernice is opposed to the sale. Their eldest sibling, Yolanda King, died in 2007.
The Congressional Gold Medal will be held in the newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is expected to open next year.
"The Smithsonian will ensure that as long as there is an America, the courage, the impact and the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King will be honored, preserved and remembered," said Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the museum.
BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
- Dylan Dilinjah Says Dave Chappelle’s Classic ‘Making the Band’ Sketch Ruined His CareerThe Brooklyn rapper said that the skit made it hard to get his career off the ground.03/04/2024
- Beyoncé Shares How She Shops Incognito At TargetIn a recent interview, the 32-time Grammy winner shared how she goes undetected at her favorite retail store.03/04/2024
- Scottie Pippen And Larsa Pippen Sued For $250 Million By His Alleged Ex-Girlfriend For Stalking And HarassmentChyvette Valentine claims she dated the former Chicago Bulls player between 1987 and 1993.03/04/2024
- Twin! Where Have You Been?! Muni Long Surprises And Inspires Screaming Brooklyn StudentsThe viral “Made For Me” singer stuns unsuspecting Brooklyn students.03/04/2024
- Rihanna Performs At Wedding In India For Multi-Billionaire HeirRiRi rocked the house while looking stunning per usual.03/04/2024
- Terry Crews Opens Up About Beating His Abusive Father On 'Club Shay Shay'The actor shared a big lesson on forgiveness and healing.03/04/2024