Quiet Commitment Spoke Volumes to Advance Civil Rights
DETROIT - The 15th Ford Freedom Award honored Congressman John Lewis, and civil rights activists Johnnie R. Carr and Viola Liuzzo – three Quiet Heroes who spoke out with their dedication and their actions in the civil rights movement.
“Today we honor African Americans who have changed our world as Quiet Heroes without any intention of recognition,” said Ziad Ojakli, group vice president, Government and Community Relations, Ford Motor Company. “Their lasting legacy challenges us all to do more to make a difference in our everyday lives.”
The Ford Freedom Award program recognizes two recipients each year. The Ford Freedom Honoree Award is presented posthumously to a distinguished African American who has dedicated his or her life to improving the African American community and the world at large through their chosen field, such as business, politics, sports and entertainment. The Ford Freedom Award Scholar is an African American who has excelled on a national or international level in the same field as the Ford Freedom Award Honoree.
The 2013 Ford Freedom Award Honoree is civil rights activist Johnnie R. Carr, who joined childhood friend Rosa Parks in organizing the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1967 she succeeded Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, a post she held until her death at age 97.
This year’s Ford Freedom Award Scholar is Congressman John Lewis, who has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls "The Beloved Community" in America. Recently an Alabama police chief apologized to Congressman Lewis for failing to protect the Freedom Riders during a trip to Montgomery, Ala., in 1961. Lewis and fellow civil rights activists were beaten by a mob after arriving at a Montgomery bus station.
“Freedom is not free,” said Congressman Lewis. “Find a way, to get in the way, to make a difference.”
The Ford Freedom Humanitarian Award was added this year and presented posthumously to Michigander Viola Liuzzo, who was killed by the Klu Klux Klan in 1965 for helping blacks register to vote.
The Ford Freedom Award also includes an essay contest for elementary and middle-school students with scholarships and medals awarded for the top entries. Finalists were recognized during the Ford Freedom Award program. Congressman Lewis also spoke to nearly 2,000 students as part of the program’s educational outreach. In addition, Ford honored 50 local Quiet Heroes who were nominated by members of the community.
"In an age when the desire for notoriety seems universal, the Wright Museum is proud to acknowledge the quiet courage and determination of this year's honorees," says Juanita Moore, president & CEO, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. "In their own astonishing and unheralded ways, they have each committed, or given, their lives for the cause of equality - which is all the more reason for their recognition."