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Black History Medals

Here are more Congressional Gold Medals that honor the work of famous African-Americans.

OBVERSE: Colin Powell

REVERSE: Colin Powell

1991 Colin Powell

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell headed all the U.S. armed forces during the Persian Gulf War.  He has received many military awards and decorations, holds honorary degrees from universities and colleges across the country, and has had several schools and other institutions named in his honor.

This medal honors General Powell's "exemplary performance as a military leader and advisor to the President in planning and coordinating the military response of the United States to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the ultimate retreat of Iraqi forces and Iraqi acceptance of all United Nations resolutions relating to Kuwait."

1998 Little Rock Nine

In 1954, the Supreme Court declared that segregation—keeping Black people separated from White people in public places—was unconstitutional.  In September of 1957, nine Black students began their school year by entering an all-White high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Though other students treated them badly, they stood up for their right to go to Central High and helped open the door to racial justice.

This medal honors Minnijean Brown Trickey, Carlotta Walls Lanier, Melba Pattillo Beals, Terrence Roberts, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, and Jefferson Thomas, their "selfless heroism and the pain they suffered in the cause of civil rights by integrating Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas."

OBVERSE: Little Rock Nine

REVERSE: Little Rock Nine

OBVERSE: Rosa Parks

REVERSE: Rosa Parks

1999 Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was a seamstress who found herself in jail one evening in 1955.  The reason she was arrested was that she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a White man.  Her quiet dignity sparked a bus boycott that helped to change the unfair way African-Americans were treated in the South.  She kept working for civil rights for many years after as well.

This medal was given for her contributions to the nation as the "first lady of civil rights" and "mother of the freedom movement."  Her "quiet dignity ignited the most significant social movement in the history of the United States."


2004 Dorothy I. Height

President George W. Bush presented the congressional gold medal to Dr. Dorothy I. Height.  The medal honored her for a lifetime of work helping people exercise their civil rights.  She was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1958 until she retired in 1998.  She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders throughout the 1960s.  She also received the Citizens Medal Award from President Ronald Reagan in 1989 and the Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1994.

The congressional gold medal was awarded to Dr. Height in recognition of "her many contributions to the Nation."  The medal is inscribed with her words:  "We African-American women seldom do just what we want to do, but always do what we have to do.  I am grateful to have been in a time and place where I could be a part of what was needed."

OBVERSE: 2004 Dorothy I. Height

REVERSE: 2004 Dorothy I. Height

Front of the 2005 Jackie Robinson

Back of the 2005 Jackie Robinson

2005 Jackie Robinson

In 1947, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers asked Jackie to join the team.  African-Americans had not played on Major League baseball teams since baseball became racially segregated in 1889.  Robinson stood strong in the face of unfair treatment, helping to integrate all of professional sports.  His talent and skill earned him the titles "Rookie of the Year" and "Most Valuable Player."  During his 10-year career with the Dodgers, his team won the pennant six times and the World Series once.

After retiring from baseball, he co-founded the Freedom National Bank of Harlem and a construction company that helped black Americans to buy their first homes.  He also led thousands of students on a civil rights march.

Although Robinson died in 1972, this medal was given to his family in 2005 to recognize his "legacy and personal achievements," and "many contributions to the nation."

2004 Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka

The 1954 Supreme Court case known as Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka (Kansas) actually included five cases from five different states, but all the cases related to the issue of ending racial segregation in public schools.

Awarded on the 50th anniversary of the court's ruling, this medal honors the contributions of Reverend Joseph A. DeLaine, Harry and Eliza Briggs, and Levi Pearson "to the Nation as pioneers in the effort to desegregate public schools that led directly to the landmark desegregation case of Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka et al."

Front of the 2004 Brown verses Board of Education of Topeka medal.

Back of the 2004 Brown verses Board of Education of Topeka medal.

Front of 2007 Tuskegee Airmen medal.

Back of 2007 Tuskegee Airmen medal.

2007 Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen were African-American pilots who became heroes during WWII.  They were famous for escorting American bombers in raids over Europe and North Africa.  The distinguished service of these 994 pilots played a part in President Truman's decision to desegregate the U.S. military.

This medal was given because of the "unique military record" of the Tuskegee Airmen, "which inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces."

Many of these Americans have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well.  Some of the other African-Americans who have been honored with this award include Reverend Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr., singers Leontyne Price, Pearl Bailey, and Lena Horne, and musicians "Duke" Ellington and "Count" Basie.

OBVERSE: Nelson Mandella

The Congressional Gold Medal is sometimes awarded to non-Americans as well.  In 1998, Congress honored Nelson Mandella for his "life-long dedication to the abolition of apartheid and the promotion of reconciliation among the people of the Republic of South Africa."

REVERSE: Nelson Mandella

And don't forget commemorative coins that have honored African-Americans, such as:

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