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The National Civil Rights Museum in Tennessee, will honor former First Lady Michelle Obama with a Freedom Award in recognition and celebration for her years of social justice and human rights advocacy.

2021 will have a “double celebration” of the 30th anniversary for both the museum and its Freedom Award. Established in 1991, the honor was created to highlight and give thanks 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.”

Michelle became the nation’s first Black First Lady when husband Barack was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States in 2009. Throughout his time in office, she advocated for several causes supporting better civil and human rights overall — including more accessible education for young girls on a global scale, emphasizing the importance of healthy diets and regular exercise and working to help service members.

In the aftermath of her time at the White House, the Ivy league educated lawyer has gone on to connect with people worldwide through the success of her book, Becoming. She and Barack have also collaborated with Netflix on several projects through their production company, including We the People and American Factory.

The Poor People’s Campaign founders, Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis are also Freedom Award honorees this year.

Named after the 1968 Poor People’s March on Washington that was organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, the Poor People’s Campaign works to “combat systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, and religious nationalism.”

Former recipients of the Freedom Award include Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., filmmaker Ava Duverney, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, Nigerian human rights and democracy activist Hafsat Abiola and civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis.

The National Civil Rights Museum ceremony will also pay tribute to Darnella Frazier, the young woman whose video capturing George Floyd’s murder helped spur BLM protests and served as evidence in the trial against the police officer who took Floyd’s life.

The National Civil Rights Museum located in downtown Memphis on the same grounds as the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot on Apr. 4, 1968. 

This year’s annual festivities will go down virtually on Oct. 14.

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