Freedom Awards

Since 1991 the Freedom Award has served as a symbol of the ongoing struggle for rights both in America and worldwide.

photograph by Dreamstime

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Since 1991 the Freedom Award has served as a symbol of the ongoing struggle for rights both in America and worldwide. With this annual event, the National Civil Rights Museum has honored world dignitaries, past presidents, media luminaries, athletic legends, and more. The award is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions in civil rights and who have laid the foundation for present and future leaders in the battle for human rights.

An International Freedom Award is given to an individual whose work has global impact or has impacted the state of human and civil rights abroad. A National Freedom Award is presented to someone who has influenced civil and human rights within the United States. The Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award celebrates individuals who have devoted themselves and much of their professions to enriching the lives of many and championing change for several decades.

And since 2009, the Legacy Freedom Award has honored a new generation of leaders who embrace justice, equality, and opportunity and have made an impact on society early in their careers.



James Farmer, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks


Barbara Jordan, Desmond Tutu


Marian Wright Edelman


President Jimmy Carter, Thurgood Marshall


Dr. Dorothy Height, Elie Wiesel


Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Andrew Young


Colin Powell, Jackie Robinson


President Mikhail Gorbachev, Dr. Benjamin Hooks


Harry Belafonte, President Lech Walesa


President Nelson Mandela


President Oscar Arias, Sidney Poitier


Julian Bond, Rigoberta Menchu Tum


President Bill Clinton, Maxine Smith


Bono, John Lewis


Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis, Paul Rusesabagina, Oprah Winfrey


Dr. Bernard Kouchner, Dr. Joseph Lowery, Stevie Wonder


Dr. John Hope Franklin, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Earvin “Magic” Johnson


Al Gore, B.B. King, Diana Nash


The Dalai Lama, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Myrlie Evers-Williams


Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Eva Longoria, Dr. Wangari Mathaai


NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, Marva Collins, Dr. Bill Frist, Danny Glover, Hill Harper, Delores Huerta, Rev. Ed King, Rev. Samuel Kyles, Rev. James Lawson, Leola Brown Montgomery, Alonzo Mourning, Usher Raymond IV, Bill Russell, John Seigenthaler, Susan L. Taylor, Cicely Tyson, Rev. C.T. Vivian, Kirk Whalum


Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Marlo Thomas, The Three Doctors, Dr. Muhammad Yunus


Geoffrey Canada, Earl Graves Sr., President Mary Robinson


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