The National Civil Rights Museum Plans Freedom Award 30th Anniversary in 2021

Museum maintains support amidst canceling this year’s 29th Freedom Award due to pandemic

Memphis, TN, June 26, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Civil Rights Museum is canceling the 29th Freedom Award, its flagship fundraising event, as it looks forward to the 30th anniversary next year.  The decision was made because of public safety concerns associated with COVID-19. The pandemic crisis has caused a significant economic impact with loss of revenue from the museum’s closure and cancellation of its public events. Revenue from the Freedom Award supports the museum’s operations and programming. The deficit resulting from its cancellation has caused serious financial strain and the need for general operations support.

Here’s the good news.  Despite there not being a social event that honors national and international history makers for their untiring contributions to civil and human rights, 37 sponsors are continuing their financial support of the Freedom Award (even when there won’t be one this year), particularly during this challenging time. Together, they have contributed $725,500. The museum is recognizing these ultimate supporters as Freedom Keepers who are supporting at the same level as they have in the past.

“With the help of our board development committee, we made the decision to simply ask sponsors if they would still give despite this year's Freedom Award being cancelled,” said Museum President Terri Lee Freeman.  “The overwhelming response was 'yes!'  It's fabulous to know that our sponsors believe in our mission and truly understood the financial implications of our not hosting a Freedom Award.”

Thank you to our Freedom Keepers including African Pride, AMPRO Industries Incorporated, Dr. Esmond & Pamela Arrindell, AutoZone, Bank of America, Baptist Memorial Health Care, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC, The Carter Malone Group, Commercial Bank and Trust Company, Cummins, Dixon Hughes Goodman, Duncan Williams Asset Management, Ernst & Young, FedEx Corporation, First Horizon Foundation, Georgia-Pacific Memphis Cellulose, Kathy & J.W. Gibson, Ann & Mason Hawkins, Highland Capital Management, LLC, Hyde Family Foundation, Independent Bank, International Paper, Kroger Delta Division Marketing, R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home, Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, Nike, ProTech Services Group, Inc., Cathy Ross, Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc., Smith and Nephew, Inc., Southeastern Asset Management Inc., Steelecase, J. Strickland & Co., Tower Ventures Management LLC, Valero Energy Foundation, and U.S. Chamber – Institute for Legal Reform. 

Traditionally, the Freedom Award experience is a daylong event including the Student Forum and Pre-Show Gala with Red Carpet and the awards ceremony.  To experience last year’s 28th Freedom Award, visit the event website at There are behind the scenes, oral histories, honoree bio-videos, photo galleries and more. 

Since 1991, the National Civil Rights Museum has presented The Freedom Award to some of the most lauded civil and human rights leaders and history makers in the world, including Coretta Scott King, President Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rosa Parks, Bono, Secretary of State Colin Powell, 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, Usher Raymond, Bill Frist, Dolores Huerta, Rev. James Lawson, Cicely Tyson, Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, Kirk Whalum, Southern Poverty Law Center, Susan Taylor, Rev. Bernice A. King, Hugh Masekela, Morris Dees, Vice President Joe Biden, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Pitt Hyde, John Legend, Hafsat Abiola, Gloria Steinem and others. 


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, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to honor and preserve the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.  It chronicles the American civil rights movement and tells the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights, serving as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.  A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, 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 and the Memphis Business Journal.

About Smithsonian Affiliations

Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums and educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The long-term goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a two-way relationship among the Affiliate organizations and the Smithsonian Institution to increase discovery and inspire lifelong learning in communities across America. More information about the Smithsonian Affiliations program and Affiliate activity is available at


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