Memphis, TN, Oct. 19, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Civil Rights Museum launches the digital premiere of the 27th Freedom Award, the museum’s signature event honoring recipients Vice President Joe Biden, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and philanthropist Pitt Hyde.  The award ceremony, held October 17, featured inspiring messages of hope, peace and unity as a recurring thread galvanizing the 2000 guests in light of the November national elections. The digital premiere includes the full award ceremony, short bio-videos on each honoree and event photo gallery.

The evening was full of surprises. Among them was the tearful response of the Honorable Joe Biden, 47th Vice President of the U.S., as he accepted the Freedom Award, seeing for the first time his bio-video narrated by his daughter Ashley. To no surprise were Biden’s rousing comments about the state of political affairs in the nation, the effort to suppress voting rights, and “the battle for the soul of America.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jr. who was at the Lorraine Motel when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated April 4, continues to champion the work of the civil rights leader in advocating for the working poor.  He acknowledged that he was “not here because Dr. King died, but because he lived.” Jackson also echoed the urgency for citizens to focus on ending poverty, racial polarization and peace as King did in his last days. He speculated that if King were alive, he would be focused on early voting, celebrating recently elected African American officials or promising campaigns of African American candidates, and attacking the darkness shrouding the political climate, stating “our strength has never been the White House; it has always been the light house.”

Philanthropist Pitt Hyde received the Freedom Award in homage to fellow honorees and Memphis civil rights leaders, Maxine Smith and Dr. Benjamin Hooks.  Pitt stated his involvement in civil rights began in 1968 when he met Maxine Smith as she picketed one his family’s stores. They began a long friendship and work together to make the National Civil Rights Museum a reality along with mutual friend Hooks. The three also “shared a passion for education, and the belief that every child – no matter where they lived, the color of their skin or the income of their parents – deserved a quality education… Access to quality education for every child remains the civil rights issue of our time,” Hyde stated with conviction.

 A musical tribute to Aretha Franklin delivered a soul-stirring mini-concert of select hits by the Queen of Soul. Two months after their matriarch’s passing, Franklin’s son, Kecalf Franklin, and two grandchildren, Victorie and Jordan Franklin, received the medal on her behalf.  While each spoke words of gratitude, Victorie poignantly stated, ”the tribute was beautiful and moving and probably one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

The theme for the 27th Freedom Award was “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, as indicated in a series of critical movements including the Vietnam War; student protests, the rise of feminism, Dr. King’s assassination and ensuing riots, and the compounding grief of Robert Kennedy’s assassination two months later. 

Reflecting on 1968, Museum President Terri Lee Freeman said, “CNN called it the year that changed America.  The Smithsonian Magazine called it the year that shattered America. I believe it may have been the year that revealed the two faces of America. It was one of the most turbulent years of modern times, a year when cultures clashed and student protest was commonplace. It was a year when peaceful nonviolence was questioned and challenged as being too slow in approach to solving urgent problems.”

The Freedom Award was presented at the Orpheum Theatre. The Ceremony was preceded by the Pre-Show Gala with Red Carpet at the Halloran Centre for the Performing Arts. For more information visit


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