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February 13, 2006

Reps Pryce, Lewis Introduce Civil Rights Act Commemorative Coin

Proceeds to Benefit the United Negro College Fund

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Deborah Pryce (R-OH) and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) will introduce bi-partisan legislation (H.R. 4770) to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the minting of a commemorative $1 coin.

The Civil Rights Act is widely recognized as one of the most effective, influential pieces of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in the past 50 years. The statute helped dismantle the system of legalized discrimination in voting and public accommodations in America and served as a model for subsequent civil rights law.   The Act helped fashion the America we know today, a nation that recognizes the equal rights of the disabled, women, the elderly, minority citizens and other groups as valuable contributors to our society.

“I am elated that the 1964 Civil Rights Act will be forever immortalized with this commemorative coin, as will the courage of the men and women who fought fearlessly for the passage of this landmark bill,” said Pryce.  “I am also honored to be joined in this effort by Congressman Lewis, a man whose advocacy and leadership in the struggle for civil rights speaks for itself.  His brave leadership of the first Selma to Montgomery march, and his support for peaceful demonstration in the face of the brutal attacks of that fateful Sunday are the very acts of courage the coin seeks to honor for future generations.  The funds raised through the minting of this coin will benefit the United Negro College Fund, and serve as a reminder that the fight for civil rights in education and elsewhere is far from over.”

“It is fitting and appropriate,” said Rep. Lewis, “that the U.S. Congress celebrate the distance we have come in the continuing journey toward equal justice in America.  It took many years of struggle on the part of a disciplined and organized movement to create the climate for action that enabled the President to introduce and the Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Only 40 years ago, it was against the law for black people and white people to sit together on city buses, for them to share the same hotels.  It was against the law for black people to sit down and be served in restaurants where they bought their food.  There were separate restrooms and water fountains, separate entrances for black and white people.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped change America.  It helped liberate, not just African Americans, but all Americans from a system that denied our true democratic destiny.”

Commemorative coins are authorized by Congress to celebrate and honor American people, places, events, and institutions.  While the coins are legal tender, they are not minted for general circulation.  As well as memorializing important aspects of American history and culture, commemorative coins help raise money for important causes.  A portion of a coin’s cost is collected as a surcharge that benefits community organizations.  Under H.R. 4770, the Civil Rights Commemorative Coin is expected to raise up to $2.5 million for the United Negro College Fund, which provides scholarships and internships for minority students and assists our nation’s historically black colleges and universities.