updated 5/11/2011 5:46:29 PM ET 2011-05-11T21:46:29

2011 event honors "Champions of Justice," Constance Baker Motley and Damon J. Keith

Program commemorates the 57th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education 

DEARBORN, Mich., May 11, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Two legendary federal jurists will be honored at the 13th Annual Ford Freedom Awards which will be held on the 57th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education. The Honorable Constance Baker Motley and the Honorable Damon J. Keith will be recognized forgroundbreaking achievements in the field of law. The gala will be held on Tuesday, May 17, at 6:00 p.m. at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

"This year's Ford Freedom Awards celebrates two iconic judges who have dedicated their lives to the principles on which our country was founded," said Ziad Ojakli, group vice president, Government and Community Relations, Ford Motor Company. "Their perseverance in the fight against injustice is a source of courage and tenacity that can be an example for generations to come. It is our honor to commemorate their accomplishments and celebrate their lives."

Minnijean Brown-Trickey, one of the members of Little Rock Nine, along with last season's "Dancing with the Stars" contestant Kyle Massey are among guests who will be present at the VIP event. Trickey made history when she and eight other teenagers became involved in one of the most pivotal acts in the Civil Rights Movement—the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School in 1957.

The 2011 Ford Freedom Awards Honoree is the intrepid civil rights lawyer JudgeConstance Baker Motley who was the first African-American woman to serve as a federal judge and in the New York Senate. Praised for looking beyond the status quo and implementing lasting change for African Americans and women alike, the posthumous award will be accepted by her son, Joel Wilson Motley III. Judge for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Damon J. Keith is this year's Ford Freedom Award Scholar. His career has spanned more than four decades and he has ruled on many high-profile cases. As an attorney and judge, Keith was very active in promoting civil rights in Michigan. Together, the judges have upheld the rights of African-American citizens and the American constitution for over 100 years.

"It is an incredible honor to be recognized for continuing to embody the principles Constance Baker Motley lived by.  She was my friend and colleague and a trailblazer in the civil rights movement. As a judge, she was committed to toppling public desegregation in America," said Judge Damon J. Keith. "She worked on some of the nation's most well-known civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. I am humbled and overjoyed to share the spotlight with such a distinguished woman who played a pivotal role in our nation's civil rights struggle."

The Ford Freedom Award program recognizes two recipients each year. The Ford Freedom Award Honoree 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 (arts, humanities, religion, business, politics, sports, science, entertainment, etc.). 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 Scholar serves as a living legacy, carrying forth the ideals of the Honoree and furthering those achievements for a new generation.

"This year's event is truly special due to the significance of the Brown v. Board of Education anniversary and the incredible legal legacy of Judge Constance Baker Motley," said Juanita Moore, president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum. "And even amidst all the awards Judge Keith has and continues to receive, to be recognized as a Ford Freedom Award Scholar places him in the outstanding company of individuals like Dorothy Height and renowned surgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson."

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, in partnership with Ford Motor Company, launched the Ford Freedom Award program in 1999 to create a forum for celebrating and recognizing individuals whose achievements brought forth lasting and positive change for African Americans and the world. The purpose of this annual fundraiser is to benefit the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the world's largest institution dedicated to the African-American experience. The Museum houses over 30,000 artifacts and archival materials and is home to the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection; the Sheffield Collection, a repository of documents of the labor movement in Detroit; the interactive, core exhibit, And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture; and the terrazzo tile creation, Ring of Genealogy, by Hubert Massey.

The Ford Freedom Award program is made possible by a grant from the Ford Motor Company.  For additional event information and tickets, call (313) 494-5800, or visit www.fordfreedomaward.com. 

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.

About the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History provides learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African Americans and their African origins.  Founded in 1965 and located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit's Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience.  For more information, please visit www.chwmuseum.org .

For media credentials or interviews 

Contacts: Cheryl Hudson,  chudson@ntouchgroup.com  ( 248) 423-9205, ext 223   

Ted Canady, ted@chwmuseum.org, (313) 494.5863   

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