MLK Jr and Wife Awarded Congressional Gold Medal for Second Time
The US is celebrating 50 years of The Civil Rights Act on July 2 this year, with leaders of Congress commemorating the event by giving the Congressional Gold Medal to the late Martin Luther King Jr and his wife Coretta for the second time.
The Civil Rights Act was a landmark piece of legislation in the US, coming into effect in 1964 and making discrimination against someone because of their gender, race, colour, national origin, or religion, illegal.
Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr were one of the reasons that the Act came into effect, being leaders of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. They believed in using civil disobedience – a form of peaceful protest that involves not complying with certain laws considered unjust – but only advocating nonviolence. Sadly, as is often the case when great change is on the horizon, MLK Jr was assassinated on the balcony of his Memphis motel room on April 4, 1968. His wife died much later at the age of 78 in 2006.
The lawmakers described the Act as having transformed the country, making “America more American”, and explained that it is vital for the US to remember those civil rights activists who did what they could in the face of tremendous adversity, and especially the forerunners like Martin Luther King Jr and his wife.
One of the highest awards to be bestowed to civilians in the US, though the recipient does not need to be a US citizen, the Congressional Gold Medal is awarded to someone whose achievements have had a significant impact on American culture and history.
The Kings’ surviving three children – Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King and Bernice King – stepped up to accept Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of their parents. “We are deeply honoured that our father and mother… are being given this award in recognition of their tireless and sacrificial leadership to advance freedom and justice through nonviolence in our nation,” they said in a statement.
The medal will be on display in the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), a new section of the Smithsonian Museum that is expected to open early in 2016.
Founding Director of the NMAAHC Lonnie Bunch declared that the Smithsonian will ensure “the courage, the impact, and the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King will be honoured, preserved and remembered”.
People around the world have benefited from the Kings’ work, and generations will continue to do so for the rest of their lives, so it is wonderful that the couple have been honoured for a second time, reiterating the importance of the Civil Rights Movement and all the good that has spawned from it.