Memphis, TN, Aug. 23, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 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 Vice President Joe Biden, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and philanthropist Pitt Hyde.

The Freedom Award will be presented October 17, 2018 at the Orpheum Theatre. The Ceremony will be preceded by the Pre-Show Gala at the Halloran Centre for the Performing Arts.  

The theme for the 27th Freedom Award is “1968,” a reflection of a pivotal year in modern American and world history when the fight for equality went global. It was a year of tumultuous chaos and paradigm shifts on what it meant to be free as indicated in a series of galvanized movements including: the opposition to the Vietnam War and tyranny; student protests at the Chicago Democratic Convention and the stand for voter rights and political representation; the wave of political coups and liberation from colonialism in Africa, Asia and Europe; the fight for gay and civil rights in America; the strike for economic equity in the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike for which Dr. King came to Memphis; the outcry that ensued after Dr. King’s assassination; and the compounding grief after Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated just two months later. 

“In 1968, the world was in turmoil in a way never recorded before, yet in ways similar to events today.  The museum looks back on this historical year and how society moved forward. It looks toward leadership, champions of freedom, who have been tested through trials and tragedies, and remain invested in lighting the way for those who struggle,” said Terri Lee Freeman, National Civil Rights Museum President.

As a young man in then-segregated Wilmington, Delaware, Joe Biden was inspired to begin a life of public service by the leaders of the civil rights movement. Only a few years later, Biden became one of the youngest senators elected to U.S. Congress when he was elected to represent the state of Delaware at the age of 29.  As a senator for 36 years, Biden was recognized for his work in criminal justice and international affairs. In 2008, he was elected Vice President, serving alongside President Barack Obama, where he continued to work to shape policies impacting the living standards of middle-class America, gun violence and violence against women. In 2017, President Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction, calling him a “lion of American history” honored for “faith in his fellow American, for [his] love of country and a lifetime of service that will endure through the generations.” Since leaving the White House, Vice President Biden has continued to stay engaged in the issues that have always animated his career, including through the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware. 

The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of the foremost civil rights, religious and political figures of our time. For nearly 50 years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for peace, civil rights, empowerment, gender equality, and economic and social justice the world over. A testament to the breadth and depth of his works can best be expressed by two of the greatest honors he has received. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Reverend Jackson; and, in 2013, the South African government bestowed upon him their highest civilian honor, their National Order, the Companions of OR Tambo. 

Reverend Jackson has been called the "Conscience of the Nation" and "the Great Unifier," challenging America to be inclusive and to establish just and humane priorities for the benefit of all. He is known for bringing people together on common ground across lines of race, faith, gender, culture and class.

J.R. “Pitt” Hyde III is trustee of the Hyde Family Foundation. His lifetime of executive and entrepreneurial experience shaped his hands-on grantmaking, focus on data-driven impact, and his philosophy emphasizing programs designed to tackle the urban challenges facing his hometown of Memphis.

Acting on the family tradition of giving back to his city, his business leadership shaped a nationally recognized family foundation focused on improving the lives, empowering others to drive change in their neighborhoods, and bringing business principles to civic engagement. Working with his wife, Foundation Chair and CEO, Barbara Rosser Hyde, he established the philanthropy’s priorities -- transforming education, strengthening neighborhoods, engaging civic leadership and promoting Memphis’ unique assets in arts and culture. He recognized that education reform is the civil rights issue of our time and his persuasive advocacy has been credited with Memphis being recognized as ground zero for the most innovative reform efforts in the U.S.  Hyde and his wife were awarded the 2017 William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership by the Philanthropy Roundtable.

Special tribute to Aretha Franklin. The Museum will pay tribute to the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin, during the Award Ceremony acknowledging her role in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Movements, and the impact she had through her creative gifts in empowering those who felt marginalized.

Writer, commentator and activist, Michaela Angela Davis, is host of the Award Ceremony. 

Over the past 26 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, Archbishop 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, Earvin “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, Vice President 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, Ava DuVernay, Swin Cash, Benjamin Crump, Tawakkol Karman, Soledad O’Brian, The Honorable Damon Keith, Bryan Stevenson, William F. Winter, Rev. Bernice A. King, Hugh Masekela and Morris Dees.

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

Freedom Award activities on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 include the following: 

10:00 a.m.       Student Forum            Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church

  5:00 p.m.       Pre-Show Gala            Halloran Centre for the Performing Arts and Education

  7:30 p.m.       Award Ceremony        Orpheum Theatre

The Freedom Award ceremony and Pre-Show Gala are ticketed events.  Sponsorship levels are $3,000, $4,500, $6,500, $10,000, $15,000, $25,000 and $35,000. Individual tickets are $200, $300 and $450. Tickets and sponsorships are available at

The Student Forum is a free student and educator forum.


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