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Hank Johnson Introduces Black History Month Measure to Honor Freedom Riders

Georgia Reps. Johnson, Collins seek Congressional Gold Medal for civil rights ‘heroes who risked their lives to make America better.’

Rep. Hank Johnson. Credit: Special
Rep. Hank Johnson. Credit: Special
Patch Staff Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In recognition of Black History Month, Congressmen Hank Johnson (GA-04) and Doug Collins (GA-09) introduced a bipartisan resolution last week calling on Congress to award the Freedom Riders the Congressional Gold Medal.

More than 50 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle joined Reps. Johnson and Collins to cosponsor the bill, H.R. 4041.

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.

“Through their bravery, the Freedom Riders paved the way to full integration of public transportation,” said Johnson. “Their quiet bravery and unshakable resolve gave us the strength to fight for what was right, for justice, equality and for moral righteousness.”

One of three surviving original Freedom Riders Hank Thomas said: The Freedom Rides were a seminal event in this country in the fight for equality, and human dignity. I thank Congressman Hank Johnson and my friend, Andy Young, for their efforts to get us this recognition."

Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville: “It’s a privilege to join my friend from Georgia in leading the effort for Congress to recognize the Freedom Riders,” said Collins. “With their tested, tried, and yet unwavering dedication to peace, liberty, and justice — for all — the Freedom Riders brought people together amidst division half a century ago.  It’s a testament to their legacy that they still do today.”

Ambassador Andrew Young, a lieutenant to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement, praised Congressman Johnson and Thomas, who are spearheading the effort to recognize the Riders.

“I want to commend Rep. Johnson and Hank Thomas for their efforts to gain recognition for these fearless American patriots – the Freedom Riders,” said Ambassador Andrew Young. “Black and white together, they sought to hold America to the true meaning of the Constitution. As much as anyone, they risked their lives to defend the promise of America.”  

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

Cosponsors (52): Collins, Conyers, Rush, Holmes Norton, Nalder, Clay, Jackson Lee, Meeks, Hahn, Rangel, Beatty, Cohen, Pitts, Hinojosa, Grijalva, Butterfield, Carson, Tonko, Dingell, Sewell, Cummings, Brown (FL), Lee (CA), Christensen, Moore, Hastings, Wilson (FL), Edwards, Waters, Schakowsky, Blumenauer, Davis, Bishop (GA), Van Hollen, Payne, Jr, Ellison, McGovern, Chu, Clarke, Veasey, Thompson, Richmond, Kelly, Kaptur, Johnson (TX), Jeffries, Gutierrez, Fudge, Fattah, Eshoo, Clyburn, Bass.

Information provided by the office of Hank Johnsoon, who is in his fourth term as U.S. Representative for Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District, which includes Stone Mountain and Lithonia.

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