19th Annual Ford Freedom Award Honored Disney Animator Floyd Norman and Playwright August Wilson

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            3 IMG_9649-X3.jpgFord Motor Company, in collaboration with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, celebrated the positive contributions of African Americans in arts and culture at the 19th annual Ford Freedom Award program. This year’s theme–“Talents That Unite! How African Americans Bring Diverse Communities Together Across America”–celebrates the achievements of legendary talents of the past and present, and heralds the influence of their works on the future.

            Ford Freedom Award honorees are distinguished individuals who dedicate their lives to improving the African American community and the world at large. The invitation-only Ford Freedom Award event was held on May 22, 6-9 p.m., at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

            “Ford is proud to be a continuing partner with the Wright Museum, to celebrate the positive contributions of these African American men,” said Ziad Ojakli, group vice president, government and community relations, Ford Motor Company. “Their powerful art and personal courage reflects the stories and struggles of American communities, and inspires us for the future.” 

            1 IMG_9535-X3.jpgThis year’s Ford Freedom Award recipient is the late August Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author. Wilson is best known for his play “Fences,” the recipient of the 1987 Tony Award for best play, Broadway’s highest honor. His wife Constanza Romero Wilson will accept the award in his honor.

            This year’s Ford Freedom Award scholar is Floyd Norman, an award-winning animator and the first African American to be hired at Disney. Norman, whose career spans nearly six decades, also worked with animation companies Hanna-Barbera and Pixar. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, Normanco-founded Vignette Films to produce films about black history for high schools.

            The bodies of work produced by these two men are timeless. Wilson’s “Fences” was recently featured in an award-winning screenplay by Denzel Washington. In 2007, Norman received the prestigious Disney Legend award. Established in 1987, the award recognizes people who have made extraordinary and integral contributions to The Walt Disney Company. Norman’s pioneering work has appeared in family favorites ranging from “The Jungle Book”and“Mulan” to “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

            The successes of both honorees exemplify not only their artistic talents, but a personal courage people all over the world can emulate and revere.             “Thanks to our partners at Ford, the Wright Museum enjoys this unique platform to showcase the tremendous contributions and talents of August Wilson and Floyd Norman,” said Juanita Moore, museum president and CEO. “As the Wright enters its 52nd year of serving this community, it is fitting that we are honoring two men whose artistic works so exemplify the American story.”

 

2 IMG_9603-X3.jpgMore than 1,700 Michigan middle school students participated in the Ford Freedom Award Scholar’s Experience, where the 2017 essay contest winners were announced.

            Ford Motor Company’s support of the African American community dates back to the early 20th century, when it was the largest employer of African Americans in the auto industry. Now, Ford is building on that support with signature initiatives that include Ford Freedom Unsung, Ford Blue Oval Scholars and Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Challenge.

            The Ford Freedom Award program is made possible by a grant from Ford Motor Company Fund, the charitable arm of Ford Motor Company.

 

Contacts:

 

Lisa Wilmore

Ntouch Communications 313.980.4766

lisawilmore5@aol.com

 

 

Zachary Burgess

The Wright Museum

zburgess@thewright.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits: Floyd Norman: Courtesy of Michael Fiore Films/’’Floyd Norman: An Animated Life”

August Wilson (photo also attached) -submitted by Estate of August Wilson.