October 30, 2019

5:00pm – Pre-Show Gala  •  7:30pm – Award Ceremony

2019 Freedom Award Honorees

The Freedom Award is the museum's signature event that honors outstanding individuals for their significant contributions to civil and human rights. This year's honorees are HAFSAT ABIOLA, GLORIA STEINEM and JOHN LEGEND.


JOHN LEGEND is a leading recording artist who uses his influence and resources to promote social justice and equality. It was for this purpose that he launched the Show Me Campaign in 2007. Drawing inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his contemporaries, John Legend believes that all children deserve a quality education that interrupts the cycle of poverty and allows them to fulfill their full potential.   His recording “Preach” targets a broken criminal justice system begging for reform.  His mini-series Can’t Just Preach follows survivors of tragedy as they tell their stories of resilience and change-making activism.

HAFSAT ABIOLA is a Nigerian human rights, civil rights and democracy activist. She is President of Women in Africa. (WIA), the first global platform dedicated to the economic development and support of leading and high potential African women. WIA supports, accompanies and contributes to the promotion of a new generation of African women to the service of an inclusive and innovative Africa. Through her non-profit, the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), she has worked to promote exemplary women leaders and build pathways to public service for them. Motivated by women’s strength, Hafsat Abiola believes that the challenges facing the continent of Africa offer opportunities for women’s leadership to emerge. Her work is a tribute to her parents who lost their lives while leading the democracy movement that brought an end to military rule in Nigeria in the ‘90s. 



GLORIA STEINEM is a writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer. She travels globally as an organizer and lecturer and is a frequent spokeswoman on issues of equality. She is particularly interested in the shared origins of gender and race caste systems, in non-violent conflict resolution, in the cultures of indigenous peoples, and in organizing across boundaries for peace and justice. She co-founded the Women's Action Alliance, a pioneering national information center that specialized in non-sexist, multi-racial children's education, and the National Women's Political Caucus, a group founded to advance the numbers of pro-equality women in elected and appointed office. She is the founding president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, a national multi-racial, multi-issue fund that supports grassroots projects to empower women and girls. She was a member of the Beyond Racism Initiative, a three-year effort on the part of activists and experts from South Africa, Brazil and the United States to compare the racial patterns and to learn cross-nationally.


A Special Tribute to
The Green Book

This year’s Freedom Award will pay tribute to the Green Book, or the Negro Travelers’ Green Book, that identified safe accommodations and services for African Americans traveling during the segregated Jim Crow Era.  The annual publication listed hotels, restaurants, service stations, and other businesses willing to serve African American customers, and in doing so allow drivers to more safely navigate throughout U.S.


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.

The Freedom Award will be presented Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at the Orpheum Theatre, preceded by the Red Carpet and Pre-Show Gala at the Halloran Center for Performing Arts.

Freedom Award activities include:

  • 10:00 a.m. - Student Forum at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church
  • 5:00 p.m. - Pre-Show Gala at the Halloran Centre (with Red Carpet on South Main Street in front of the Halloran Centre and Orpheum Theatre)
  • 7:30 p.m. - Award Ceremony at the Orpheum Theatre





If you have media questions, email Connie Dyson at cdyson@civilrightsmuseum.org.


Freedom Award Student Forum

October 30, 2019  •  10:00am
Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church

The annual Student Forum is the opening event for the National Civil Rights Museum's Freedom Award celebration. The Forum allows students an opportunity to hear from leaders in the ongoing struggle for civil and human rights.

Keeper of the Dream Award

This award celebrates and recognizes the heroism of many young people who will have the amazing responsibility of safeguarding our freedom while ensuring equal rights and opportunities for others. Area students in grades 6 – 12 who have demonstrated acts of compassion, leadership, commitment and service are self-nominated or nominated by educators and community leaders.  Keeper of the Dream Award nominations are open until Friday, September 20, 5:00pm.