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National Civil Rights Museum’s 2016 Freedom Awards Honorees

Wednesday, the National Civil Rights Museum announced recipients of The Freedom Award, the museum’s signature event that honors outstanding individuals fo...

(News Release)

MEMPHIS, TN – (July 13, 2016) – Today, the National Civil Rights Museum announced recipients of The Freedom Award, the museum’s signature event that honors outstanding individuals for their significant contributions to civil and human rights. This year’s honorees are Benjamin Crump, civil rights attorney; Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; The Honorable Damon Jerome Keith, longest serving judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court; Soledad O’Brien, journalist and executive producer; and Bryan Stevenson, attorney and social justice activist.

Themed “And Justice for All,” The Freedom Award will be presented October 20, 2016 at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, followed by the Gala Celebration at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

Since 1991, the Freedom award has honored distinguished individuals who have made great global and national impact.  These men and women are lauded for their work in the struggle for civil and human rights.

“For our 25th Freedom Award, we felt it important to highlight individuals who have dedicated their lives to ensuring ‘Justice for All’ in disenfranchised communities,” said Terri Lee Freeman, president of the National Civil Rights Museum. “They’ve emphasized the human right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We honor them for their commitment to making this a more just society.”

Benjamin Crump is civil rights attorney whose legal acumen as both a litigator and advocate has ensured that those most frequently marginalized are protected by their nation’s contract with its constituency.  Crump is known for taking on high visibility pro bono cases with widespread media attention and civil rights implications. Those cases include representation for the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice. Ford Motor Company is the sponsor.

Tawakkol Karman is a Yemeni journalist and human rights activist. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 in recognition of her work in nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace building work in Yemen. Upon being awarded the prize, Tawakkol became the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date, at the age of 32. She has been called the “Iron Woman” and “Mother of the Revolution” by Yemenis. The Hyde Family Foundation is the sponsor.

Hon. Damon Jerome Keith is the longest serving judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court (1977 – present). Judge Keith has presided over seminal civil rights cases. His guiding principles shaped what would become historic rulings on wire-tapping, segregation, workers’ rights, access to education, public housing and urban renewal, and issues of privacy. At 93-years old he is living, judicial history. Ford Motor Company is sponsor.

Soledad O’Brien is a broadcast journalist, executive producer and chairman of Starfish Media Group. O’Brien produced the multi-part CNN special, Black in America, documenting the successes, struggles, and complex issues faced by black men, women and families 40 years after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.  In The Black Woman & Family, O’Brien explored the varied experiences of black women and families and investigated the disturbing statistics of single parenthood, racial disparities between students, and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS. O’Brien expanded her series with the documentary Latino in America. FedEx is sponsor. 

Brian Stevenson is an attorney, social justice activist, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, clinical professor at New York University School of Law and author of the best-selling book Just Mercy. Stevenson has gained national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system. Stevenson has assisted in securing relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, advocated for poor people and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice. International Paper is sponsor.

Special tribute to The Memphis 13, African American first graders who took courageous steps to enter four formerly all-white elementary schools to desegregate the Memphis City Schools. Attending Gordon, Bruce, Rozelle and Springdale Elementary Schools, they were some of the civil rights movement’s smallest pioneers. As students trying to have a normal schooling experience amidst an extraordinary moment, they endured the isolation of children at the forefront of social change. The Memphis 13 are Jacqueline Moore Christion (Springdale); Sheila Malone Conway (Gordon); Pamela Mayes Evans (Gordon); E.C. Freeman Fentress (Rozelle) (deceased); Menelik Fombi (Bruce); Alvin Freeman (Gordon); Deborah Ann Holt (Springdale); Dwania Kyles (Bruce); Sharon Malone (Gordon); Joyce Bell White (Rozelle); Leandrew Wiggins (Rozelle); Clarence Williams (Rozelle); and Harry Williams (Bruce).

Michael Eric Dyson returns as host of the Award Ceremony.

Over the past 25 years, the National Civil Rights has presented The Freedom Award to many of the most lauded civil and human rights leaders and history makers including Coretta Scott King, President Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, President Mikhail Gorbachev, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Rosa Parks, Bono, Secretary of State Colin Powell,  President Lech Walesa, President Oscar Arias, , President Mary Robinson, Paul Rusesabagina, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Tom Brokaw, Frank Robinson, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, Bernard Lafayette, Marlo Thomas, Hill Harper, Marva Collins, Usher Raymond, Bill Frist, Dolores Huerta, Rev. James Lawson, Cicely Tyson, Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, Kirk Whalum, Southern Poverty Law Center, Susan Taylor, Rev. C.T. Vivian, John Seigenthaler, NAACP, Alonzo Mourning, Danny Glover, Julius “Dr. J” Ervin, Eva Longoria Parker, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Dr. Wangari Maathai,  Al Gore, Diane Nash, B.B. King, John Hope Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Congressman John Lewis, Maxine Smith, Rev. Benjamin Hooks, Julian Bond, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Andrew Young, Jackie Robinson, Frank Robinson, Elie Wiesel, Oprah Winfrey, Myrlie Evers-Williams , Geoffrey Canada, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Ruby Bridges-Hall, and Ava DuVernay.

The Freedom Award premiere sponsors are International Paper, the Hyde Family Foundation, FedEx Corporation, Ford Motor Company and First Tennessee.

Freedom Award activities on Thursday, October 20, 2016 include the following:

10:00 a.m.            Public Forum                        Mississippi Blvd Christian Church

5:00 p.m.            Red Carpet                            Cannon Center for the Performing Arts

6:00 p.m.            Award Ceremony                Cannon Center for the Performing Arts

8:00 p.m.            Gala Dinner                           Memphis Cook Convention Center

The Public Forum is a free student and educator forum. Tickets and tables are available for the Freedom Award ceremony and gala event.  Tables are $3,000, $4,500, $6,500, $10,000, $15,000, $25,000 and $35,000.  Tables for non-profits are $2,000.  Individual tickets are $200, $300, and $450. To reserve tickets and tables, please contact  development@civilrightsmuseum.org.

About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, is the only Museum of its kind in the country that gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1619 to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 70,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement, examine today’s global civil and human rights issues, provoke thoughtful debate and serve as a catalyst for positive social change.

An internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum was recognized as USA Today‘s Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC’s Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal.