Ford Motor Company and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, recently hosted a premier event in anticipation of the 19th Annual Ford Freedom Awards.
This year, the late August Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author, was honored posthumously with the prestigious Ford Freedom Award groundbreaking accomplishments as a playwright and author. His wife Constanza Romero Wilson accepted the Ford Freedom Award for her husband, saying her late husband was “charming” but “soft-spoken.”
“Everybody wanted to hear his stories; storytelling you’ve never heard,” she reminisced. Wilson best known for his play “Fences,” was the recipient of the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play, Broadway’s highest honor.
The Ford Freedom Award, introduced in 1999, is awarded posthumously to distinguished individuals who dedicated their lives to improving the African American community and the world in general. Previous posthumous honorees have included Ossie Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson, Ed Bradley, Langston Hughes, General Daniel “Chappie” James, Benjamin Elijah Mays, Coretta Scott King & John Johnson.
The Ford Freedom Award Scholar was presented to Floyd Norman, an award-winning animator and the first African American to be hired at Disney. Norman, whose career spans six decades also worked for animation companies Hanna-Barbara and Pixar. Norman was named the Ford Freedom Scholar for his excellence in arts, entertainment and animation. He was lead animator on several movie classics including The Jungle Book and Toy Story 2. He also took the opportunity to dispel rumors about Disney’s social consciousness. “Working with Walt Disney was the highlight of my career. He treated me fairly and hired more animators of color than anybody else did at that time, he stated, adding, “He was human, just a man, and he was certainly not a racist.”
The Ford Freedom Award Scholar distinction is given to individuals who have excelled on a national or international level in the field of the Award recipient or who have carried forth the ideals of the recipient and have, in their own way, furthered the achievements for a new generation. Past Scholars include Morgan Freeman, Al Jarreau, Ambassador Andrew Young, Gregory Hines, Reggie Jackson, Dr. Mae Jemison, Usher Raymond, Dr. Dorothy Height and Robin Roberts.
Following the roundtable discussion with honorees, guests gathered in the Wright Museum’s rotunda for the installation of special nameplate honoring Wilson. A special screening of Norman’s documentary, The Animated Life followed the installation ceremony.
Ford Freedom Award proceeds support educational programs, exhibits, and community outreach initiatives of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the world’s largest institution dedicated to the African American experience.