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

  • 2017 Ford Freedom Award celebrates “Talents That Unite!” – honoring Disney animator Floyd Norman and late Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fences” playwright August Wilson 
  • Award reception to showcase nameplate installation honoring Wilson and a documentary screening of “Floyd Norman: An Animated Life” 
  • More than 1,700 Michigan middle school students to attend Ford Freedom Award Scholar’s Experience, where essay winners will receive more than $10,000 in scholarship awards

DEARBORN, Mich., May 11, 2017 – Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, will celebrate 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 takes place 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.” 

This 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, Norman co-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.”

More than 1,700 Michigan middle school students will participate in the Ford Freedom Award Scholar’s Experience, where the 2017 essay contest winners will be announced. The event is scheduled for May 23 at 9 a.m., at the Max M. Fisher Music Center.

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. 

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan, committed to helping build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.  The company’s Ford+ plan for growth and value creation combines existing strengths, new capabilities and always-on relationships with customers to enrich experiences for customers and deepen their loyalty.  Ford develops and delivers innovative, must-have Ford trucks, sport utility vehicles, commercial vans and cars and Lincoln luxury vehicles, along with connected services.  The company does that through three customer-centered business segments:  Ford Blue, engineering iconic gas-powered and hybrid vehicles; Ford Model e, inventing breakthrough EVs along with embedded software that defines exceptional digital experiences for all customers; and Ford Pro, helping commercial customers transform and expand their businesses with vehicles and services tailored to their needs.  Additionally, Ford provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  Ford employs about 176,000 people worldwide.  More information about the company and its products and services is available at

About the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Founded in 1965, The Wright Museum opens minds and changes lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture. Our vision is of a world in which the adversity and achievement of African American history INSPIRE EVERYONE toward greater UNDERSTANDING, ACCEPTANCE, and UNITY. For more information, please visit

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