New Civil Rights bill to benefit Black students

A new Civil Rights bill recently signed into law by President George W. Bush will help raise scholarship money for Black college students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

A new Civil Rights bill recently signed into law by President George W. Bush will help raise scholarship money for Black college students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

On Dec. 2, Bush signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Commemorative Coin Act, which was sponsored by U.S. Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, and Sen. Deborah Stanbenow, D-Mich. The bill directs the U.S. Treasury Department to issue 350,000 one-dollar coins to mark the passage of the original Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The coin will be issued in 2014 and will mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. A price for the coins has not been set and is not likely to be established until 2014, said Michael White, a spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Department. The coin will be available to purchase online at www.usmint.gov or at commemorative coin shops.

Lewis said this bill honors the efforts made by Civil Rights leaders who fought to further the needs of Black people.

“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) I am very pleased and delighted that this bill has been finally signed into law,” Lewis said. “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.”

This is the third such coin minted by the federal government commemorating a Black history event, White said.

The other two coins were the 2007 Little Rock High School Desegregation and the 1998 Black Revolutionary War Patriots.

Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, expects the coin proceeds to benefit thousands of 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,” he said.

“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.”

UNCF, which administers more than 400 scholarship and internship programs so students from low- and moderate-income families can afford to go to college, will receive the coin proceeds and then distribute it to scholarship recipients.

The education disparity that exists between Black and white students should be narrowed with this bill because it will provide more opportunities for Blacks to go to college, Stabenow said.

“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,” Stabenow said. “This legislation is an important step toward addressing the state of college attendance and graduation rates for African American students.”

While serving in the U.S. Senate, President-elect Barack Obama was a co-sponsor of the bill along with Stabenow. The House passed the bill April 1, and the Senate passed it Nov. 21.

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