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Beyer, Thompson Introduce Bill to Honor Civil Rights Activist and Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland with Congressional Gold Medal

Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) today introduced the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Congressional Gold Medal Act to honor the life and legacy of civil rights activist and Arlington native Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, who participated in more than fifty demonstrations and sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s including the Freedom Rides, the Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-in, the March on Washington, and the Selma to Montgomery March.

“Joan’s unwavering bravery, repeatedly risking her own safety and enduring imprisonment to challenge segregation and injustice, helped catalyze a nationwide Civil Rights Movement that reshaped American society and challenged long-standing racial barriers,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “The Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting honor for an exemplary American whose dedication and sacrifice played a pivotal role in advancing civil rights and social justice in America.”

“Joan Trumpauer Mulholland's tenacity and courage in the face of adversity during the Civil Rights Movement are nothing short of heroic. Her unwavering commitment to justice and equality has left a lasting mark on our nation's history,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson. “It is an honor to introduce this legislation alongside Rep. Beyer to award Joan Trumpauer Mulholland the Congressional Gold Medal. We all should applaud her extraordinary contributions and let her legacy inspire us to continue the fight for justice and equality.”

“We are proud of the achievements and contributions of our mother and her example to do what was right even when it wasn't easy during the tumultuous times of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Loki Mulholland, Founder and Executive Director of the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation. “Her courage, fortitude and belief that our country can truly live up to its founding ideals that everyone is created equal and should be treated as such is a worthy example of being a true citizen of our great nation. We're grateful for Reps. Beyer and Thompson’s work in recognizing her contribution and presenting this opportunity for her to be honored by Congress.”

The Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Congressional Gold Medal Act is supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Original cosponsors of the legislation include Reps. Steven Horsford (D-VA), James Clyburn (D-SC), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), David Scott (D-GA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Valerie Foushee (D-NC), and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland first became involved in the Civil Rights Movement while attending Duke University, joining like-minded students at demonstrations and sit-ins against segregation practices. As part of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), she worked alongside civil rights luminaries such as the late Rep. John Lewis to advance racial equality.

In 1961, she joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Rides to integrate interstate travel facilities throughout the South and was subsequently arrested. After two weeks in local jails, Trumpauer Mulholland was sent to Parchman Penitentiary in Mississippi where she was held in maximum security for 60 days before she was released. Trumpauer Mulholland then enrolled at the historically Black Tougaloo College where she became the first full-time White student in the history of the college. In 1963, she participated in the historic Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In where she and fellow activists faced verbal and physical violence. The events at Jackson Woolworth’s inspired a sit-in movement that quickly spread to other cities across the nation.

After graduating from Tougaloo College, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland relocated back to Arlington, Virginia where she raised five children and served for more than 30 years as an educator. In 2023, Trumpauer Mulholland was honored by the Virginia General Assembly and received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tougaloo College.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States Congress, awarded to those who have made a long-standing impact on American history and culture. Previous Congressional Gold Medal Recipients include Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, and the Little Rock Nine.

Text of the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Congressional Gold Medal Act is available here, with a one-pager available here