TAYLOR BRANCH wrote the landmark narrative history of the Civil Rights Era, America in the King Years, a trilogy that required more than 24 years of intensive research. He has won a Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Humanities Medal, and an Emmy as Executive Producer for 2018 documentary "King in the Wilderness."
At the age of 21, Taylor Branch played a role in civil rights politics as an elected member of the Georgia Loyalist Democrats delegation at the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The delegates modeled the Mississippi Freedom Democrats of 1964 and challenged the all-white delegation.
Branch returned to civil rights history in his book, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement (2013) which he dedicated to “students of freedom and teachers of history.”
ISABEL WILKERSON is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, Wilkerson exposes the universal human search for the American dream. The critically acclaimed author of The Warmth of Other Suns and of Caste, she explores the need to reconcile America’s karmic inheritance and the origins of both our divisions and our shared commonality. She draws a direct link between the leaderless revolution known as the Great Migration and the protest movements for social justice today, both responses to unacknowledged and unaddressed history.
She is the first Black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting in the history of American journalism. Her book Caste is being adapted into a film by 2015 Freedom Award honoree Ava DuVernay.
FREDERICK W. SMITH is the founder and executive chairman of FedEx Corporation. Global humanitarian and leader in innovation, sustainability, diversity, and inclusion. Mastered reformation of the aviation and trucking industries.
Over his nearly 50-year history leading FedEx, Smith has focused his passions on helping people acquire skills and education to access opportunity. His dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion has carried over into the FedEx culture creating opportunities for FedEx team members and communities in Memphis and around the world. As a visionary entrepreneur, his support for small businesses has led to training, mentoring, networking, and capital access to help diverse entrepreneurs grow.
He is the producer of the critically acclaimed documentary, “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.”
Award-winning musician, composer and producer, Garry Goin, will lead the Freedom Award House Band for a night of nonstop entertainment and melodic sounds.