Congressman Johnson Re-Introduces Measure to Honor Freedom Riders With Congressional Gold Medal

February 25, 2021
Press Release
Johnson seeks Congressional Gold Medal for civil rights ‘heroes who risked their lives to make America better’ – more than 50 colleagues agree.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, re-introduced a resolution calling on Congress to award the Freedom Riders the Congressional Gold Medal.

More than 50 members of Congress – including more than a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) – joined Rep. Johnson as original cosponsors of the bill, H.R. 1348.

The Freedom Rides, which lasted from May to November 1961, included more than 400 black and white Americans who risked their lives to challenge Jim Crow laws – particularly public transportation – in the South. Despite enduring vicious attacks and imprisonment for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they traveled through the Deep South, the Freedom Riders challenged bitter racism and mob violence with nonviolent activism.

“In our modern movement for equality and racial justice, recognizing the sacrifices and bravery of our forebearers helps us understand our past and envision a more equitable, bright and just future for all,” said Rep. Johnson.

“The original riders – including my constituents Hank Thomas and Charles Person and my dear friend and former colleague John Lewis – endured insults and beatings and risked their lives 60 years ago because they believed in a different future for their children and their grandchildren.”

The 13 original Freedom Riders, who departed on the morning of May 4, 1961, were: Genevieve Hughes Houghton, Charles Person, Hank Thomas, John Lewis, Edward Blankenheim, James Farmer, Walter Bergman, Frances Bergman, Joseph Perkins, Jimmy McDonald, Mae Francis Moultrie, Benjamin Elton Cox, and Albert Bigelow.

If approved by Congress, the Freedom Riders would receive the medal as a group and it would be displayed at the Smithsonian Museum.

Cosponsors (56), including: Reps. Bass, Beatty, Bishop, Blumenauer, Blunt Rochester, Bourdeaux, Bowman, Brown, Bustos, Butterfield, Carson, Castor, Cicilline, Clarke (NY), Cooper, Eshoo, Espaillat, Evans, Grijalva, Hastings, Hayes, Jayapal, Bernice Johnson, Khanna, Kilmer, Kuster, Langevin, Lawrence, Lee (CA), Lowenthal, Maloney (NY-12), Meeks, Meng, Moore, Nadler, Neguse, Norton, Payne, Peters, Pocan, Porter, Rush, Sarbanes, Scanlon, Schakowsky, Sewell, Speier, Strickland, Suozzi, Thompson, Titus, Velazquez, Watson Coleman, Welch, Williams (GA), Yarmuth.

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