October 23, 2016
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Johnson Family Patriarch To Be Given Ford Freedom Award

DETROIT, Mich.,  – Two of the nation’s most influential and successful African American entrepreneurs will be honored at the 12th annual Ford Freedom Award program on Thursday, May 6.  The late John H. Johnson, “The Empire Builder” and Usher Raymond IV, “The Dream Maker” will be recognized for their outstanding achievements and groundbreaking accomplishments.  The day-long event includes a scholar’s lecture for more than 1,500 invited middle school students beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Detroit’s Music Hall and a ticketed evening gala and program at 6:00 p.m. at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.  

John H. Johnson, founder and publisher of Johnson Publishing, producers of Jet and Ebony magazines, will receive the Ford Freedom Award posthumously; and Usher Raymond IV, famously known as “Usher” and chairman and founder of Usher's New Look Foundation, has been named the Ford Freedom Award Scholar.  Kevin Frazier, weekend anchor and correspondent of Entertainment Tonight, and local WXYZ-TV host Chuck Stokes will once again serve as emcees of the evening gala.

“John H. Johnson and Usher epitomize the meaning of the Ford Freedom Award,” said Ziad Ojakli, group vice president, Government and Community Relations, Ford Motor Company.  “Their achievements have benefited the individual lives of many, and communities for us all.  We are thrilled to have them as this years honorees and to celebrate their commitment and passion.”

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, in partnership with Ford Motor Company, launched the Ford Freedom Award program in 1999.  The concept of the program is to create a forum to celebrate and recognize individuals whose achievements brought lasting and positive change for African Americans and the world.

“We applaud Ford Motor Company for its continued support of the Ford Freedom Award program because education is at the center of our Museum’s mission,” said Juanita Moore, president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.  “Therefore, as we recognize John H. Johnson for his
groundbreaking accomplishments in business and journalism, it is our privilege to add his name to the Museum's Ring of Genealogy and also to take this moment to recognize Usher Raymond IV for his entrepreneurship and commitment to helping the youth of this nation."

The Ford Freedom honoree is presented posthumously to a distinguished African American who has dedicated their life to improving the African American community and the world at large through their chosen field.  The Ford Freedom Award Scholar is presented to an African American who has excelled on a national or international level in the field of the Ford Freedom Award Honoree.  The Scholar serves as a living legacy that has furthered those achievements for a new generation.

The Award program consists of three components:

•    Scholar’s Lecture:  Education is a key component of the Ford Freedom program and a key role of the Ford Freedom Scholar is to address nearly 1,500 grade-school Detroit-area students about the achievements of the Ford Freedom Award Honoree and to share their thoughts and experiences in an effort to inspire and engage future leaders.  Kyle and Christopher Massey, stars of Disney Channel’s “That’s So Raven” and “Cory in the House”, will emcee this year’s event.

•    There also is a Ford Freedom Award Essay Contest that reaches out to 2,000 Michigan students in Grades 4 to 8 who participate in this annual program.  Winners will receive their awards during the Ford Freedom Award Scholar’s Lecture.  

•    Ford Freedom Gala Reception:  This black-tie strolling dinner and awards presentation recognizes and celebrates the Ford Freedom Award Honoree and Scholar, and includes a video tribute to both recipients.  In addition, a brass nameplate bearing the Honoree’s name is unveiled.  The nameplate will be installed in the Museum’s Ford Freedom Rotunda.

For additional event information and tickets, call 313-494-5800 or visit www.maah-detroit.org.


Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 176,000 employees and about 80 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and, until its sale, Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History provides learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African Americans and their African origins.  The Charles H. Wright Museum strives to be recognized as the institution of choice for exploring and presenting African American history and culture.  The Museum is located at 315 E. Warren Avenue in Detroit, Mich.

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