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House Advances Civil Rights Coin
By Ben Evans

Congress is advancing legislation to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with a commemorative silver dollar.

The House passed the measure without opposition Tuesday, and a similar bill is pending in the Senate, sponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Barack Obama, D-Ill.

House sponsor John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and former civil rights leader, said the legislation is more than symbolic. Sales of the limited-edition coin would generate some $2.5 million to be donated to the United Negro College Fund for scholarships and other expenses.

The bill, also backed by Reps. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, and Vic Snyder, D-Ark., had stalled for two years, partly because Congress limits itself to just two commemorative coins per year.

The bill would direct the U.S. Mint to produce 350,000 $1 coins to be sold beginning in 2014, marking the anniversary of the landmark law's signing in 1964. The Civil Rights Act barred restaurants, hotels and other public places from denying service to blacks and outlawed employment discrimination against women and minorities.

Citing research showing that roughly half of black high school students will drop out before graduation, Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, said the coin's proceeds are badly needed and that the money would continue the mission of the civil rights movement.

"Dr. (Martin Luther) King gave his life so that all kids could have the opportunity to realize their full potential," he said.

Past coins have celebrated Civil War battlefields, various Olympic games, the 1994 World Cup soccer tournament and the Statue of Liberty. Last year, the Mint began selling a coin marking the 50th anniversary of the 1957 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.



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