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December 3, 2008: Lewis, Stabenow, and Pryce Join UNCF to Announce Signing of Commemorative Civil Rights Coin Bill

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, a bill shepherded through the House and Senate by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH), Sen. Deborah Stabenow (D-MI) which authorizes the minting of a commemorative Civil Rights coin to benefit the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) was signed into law by the President.  The bill directs the Treasury Department to issue 350,000 one-dollar coins marking the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  More than a tribute, the bill will assist UNCF, the nation’s largest and most effective minority higher education assistance organization, by allocating all coin proceeds to help fund scholarship programs to support UNCF’s 39 member historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

            As a Senator, President-elect Barack Obama served as a lead co-sponsor of this bill in the Senate along with Senator Stabenow. The House passed the bill on April 1 of this year.  Senate passage took place on November 21.   The coin will be issued in 2014 and will mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in employment and public accommodations, such as hotels and restaurants.

            “I am very pleased and delighted,” said Rep. John Lewis, “that this bill has been finally signed into law.  America has turned a corner in politics and is charting a new course toward its future.  It is so fitting and appropriate that at this moment in history, the US Congress has agreed to honor the legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by minting these commemorative coins. There is no question that we would not be at this juncture today without the inspiration and the sacrifice of Martin Luther King Jr. and skillful legislative prowess of President Lyndon Johnson.    

            “And we would not be at this juncture today without countless and nameless ordinary citizens with extraordinary vision who had the courage to take a stand to make a difference in our society.  There is no better way to honor this legacy than through the education of all Americans, especially African Americans, who must understand the price that had to be paid for the liberty we enjoy today.  I am proud that the proceeds will benefit UNCF, which has guided and assisted thousands of students who may not have had an opportunity otherwise to become educated participants in our society. This is a great day and this bill represents a great opportunity.”

             “This is an important tribute to one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in our history, a tribute that will make a real difference by generating resources to help minority students gain better access to higher education,” said Sen. Stabenow.  “This legislation is an important step toward addressing the state of college attendance and graduation rates for African American students.”

            “UNCF is excited about the signing of the commemorative coin bill and proud to receive the proceeds from sales of the coin, which pays tribute to civil rights pioneers who were instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” said Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., president and CEO of UNCF. “We are honored that the proceeds from the coin will carry on the legacy by helping UNCF continue to support the 60,000 students who depend on UNCF each year for the support that enables them to attend college and get the education they need to launch their careers and contribute to their communities.”

            “It is only fitting that we pass this legislation weeks after the election of our nation’s first African American President.  The minting of these coins will honor those who came before us, as we look toward a shared future made possible by their struggle,” said Congresswoman Deborah Pryce (R-OH).  “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 remains one of the most effective, influential pieces of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in the last century, and is the bedrock for the America we know today.  I am humbled to be joined in enacting this legislation by Congressman John Lewis, a true civil rights hero whose courage, thoughtful advocacy, and leadership in the struggle for civil rights speaks for itself.”

            Proceeds for the sale of the coins will support scholarships at UNCF member schools.  UNCF administers more than 400 scholarship and internship programs so students from low and moderate-income families can afford college tuition, books and room and board.

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