Awards, National Civil Rights Museum

Dr. Clayborne Carson To Receive National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award Along With Stacey Abrams, Kerry Kennedy

The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, is honoring three outstanding civil and human rights leaders — Dr. Clayborne Carson, activist Stacey Abrams, and human rights leader Kerry Kennedy — during its 32nd Freedom Award ceremony.

The Freedom Award is an annual event hosted by the museum honoring those who have made significant contributions to civil rights and have laid the foundation for the next generation of civil rights leaders. Past Freedom Award winners include Michelle Obama, President Joe Biden, The Poor People’s Campaign, and singer John Legend.

The Freedom Award ceremony will take place Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre.

Carson is a Stanford University professor, and founder and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, which houses rare, digital educational resources by the civil rights leader.

The professor, who is one of the foremost experts on the life of activist and leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., told BLACK ENTERPRISE he was honored to be receiving the award.

“It’s a good way for me to recognize the people who are aware of my work, and even though I’m in retirement it gave me something to look forward to,” said Clayborne. “It’s also wonderful to share this award with Stacey Abrams and Kerry Kennedy.”

Since 1985, Carson has directed the Martin Luther King Papers Project, a long-term project to edit and publish the papers of the civil rights activist. Additionally, Carson has published numerous books on the Civil Rights Movement and is the senior adviser to the landmark Eyes on the Prize documentary series. 

He has also written several award-winning books, including In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s, which was published in 1981 and remains the definitive study of the courageous activists and organizers who challenged segregation.

When asked about the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for freedom that continues today, Carson said there are still significant strides to be made, adding that the scope of civil rights goes well beyond the United States.

“I think we do have a long way to go because I think the goal has to be, as Dr. King put it, to be global,” Carson told BE. “I think too many times we mistake civil rights for human rights. Giving us rights in one country doesn’t necessarily advance the cause of human rights because, as King pointed out, we’re in a world house now.”

To that end, Carson established The World House Project to collaborate with other human rights advocates to realize Dr. King’s vision of a global community in which all people can “learn somehow to live with each other in peace.” He also has contributed to more than two dozen subsequent documentaries on the Civil Rights Movement and related events.

The Stanford professor added that in his studies of Dr. King, one of the things that stood out to him was the life and accomplishments of King’s wife, Coretta Scott King.

“Coretta was very much involved in the broader human rights movement and was actually more politically experienced than he was,” said Carson. “She had been a member of a progressive party, and when she met Martin, one of the things that drew her to him was that she was two years older and more politically experienced in the effort to get human rights.”

Tickets for the Freedom Award ceremony can be purchased here. The preshow gala will begin at 5:30 p.m. at The Halloran Center.

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