This year’s theme “Celebrating Legacies – from Civil War to Civil Rights” highlights the contributions of honorees Fred Gray, Dr. Frank Smith, Jr. and The Walt Disney Company.
Gray’s work as a civil rights attorney exemplifies deeply held principles that have advanced equality and changed the course of American history. Dr. Smith, founding director of the African American Civil War Museum, is the leading force behind the creation of the nation’s only African American Civil War Memorial, located in Washington, D.C. The Walt Disney Company will be recognized as AAEF’s largest corporate donor.
Rep. Lewis will be the keynote speaker and Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater is the Honorary Chair of the Gala.
“Through AAEF’s 10th anniversary gala, we celebrate the magnificent legacies of leadership, vision and courage of our honorees Fred Gray and Dr. Frank Smith,” said Lydia Sermons, Executive Director of AAEF. “We are pleased by the occasion to honor these legacy leaders and our legacy donor The Walt Disney Company, and at the same time raise awareness and support for our work to help ensure that future generations of American citizens and overseas visitors have the chance to experience the places where our nation’s rich history actually happened. “
Since it was established in 2001, AAEF has welcomed more than two million visitors annually to its 20 national historic sites and has provided more than $1.3 million in grant support for projects and programs aimed at connecting young people, educators, tourists, communities and organizations to these very special places.
AAEF’s work includes helping with the restoration of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the establishment of the Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, and the installation of interactive activities for classroom visitors at Booker T. Washington National Monument.
Honorees from past Galas include Congressman John Lewis; General Colin Powell; Ambassador Andrew Young; the Little Rock Nine and historian John Hope Franklin.
Proceeds from this event fund education, volunteer and community engagement programs at AAEF national historic sites that preserve and promote African American history and culture.