In this Dec. 9, 2019, file photo, Michelle Obama listens to female students at the Can Giuoc high school in Long An province, Vietnam. The former first lady and The Poor People’s Campaign have been chosen to receive Freedom Awards from the National Civil Rights Museum in Tennessee. The museum said Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, that Obama and the campaign’s two leaders, the Rev. William Barber and the Rev. Liz Theoharis, will be honored during a virtual ceremony on Oct. 14. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh, File)

By AFRO Staff

The National Civil Rights Museum has named former first lady Michelle Obama and the Poor People’s Campaign as recipients of its 2021 Freedom Award.

“This year is the double 30th anniversary of the National Civil Rights Museum, dedicated to being a catalyst for positive social change and a place where the truth in history lives,” said museum President Dr. Russell Wigginton, in a statement. “And, for this 30th Freedom Award, we honor Michelle Obama and Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign, who have distinctly changed our communities, nation and world.”

The virtual awards will be presented live from the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tenn., on Oct. 14.

Obama is a “role model for women” and a “global icon for women’s rights and healthy families,” the museum said, citing her work in the White House and after, including The Girls Opportunity Alliance, a program of the Obama Foundation which seeks to empower adolescent girls around the world through education.

The Poor People’s Campaign has “picked up the unfinished work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others” to confront the many social ills facing marginalized communities and has come to represent “the power of poor people to be change agents at the very heart of democracy,” the museum said. 

The institution specifically recognized the work of Repairers of the Breach and Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice led by the Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, respectively. 

“We’re devoting this Freedom Award to those who have, and are still, creating life-changing blueprints for our society,” said Faith Morris, chief marketing and external affairs officer and managing director/producer of the Freedom Award.

The Award is the Museum’s signature event that pays tribute to outstanding individuals for their significant contributions to civil and human rights.

Past recipients include Coretta Scott King, President Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, President Bill Clinton, NBA legend and business mogul Earvin “Magic” Johnson, actress Cicely Tyson, Congressman John Lewis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rosa Parks, U2 front man Bono and many more.

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