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19th Annual Ford Freedom Award Spotlights Disney Animator Floyd Norman

2017 Ford Freedom Award celebrates “Talents That Unite!" naming Disney animator Floyd Norman this year's Ford Freedom Award scholar and screening the documentary 'Floyd Norman: An Animated Life.'

DEARBORN, MICHIGAN -- Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, will celebrate the contributions of African Americans to arts and culture at the 19th annual Ford Freedom Award program.

Ford Freedom Award honorees are distinguished individuals who dedicate their lives to improving the African American community and the world at large. This year’s theme is “Talents That Unite! How African Americans Bring Diverse Communities Together Across America” and celebrates the achievements of legendary talents of the past and present. The invitation-only Ford Freedom Award event takes place May 22 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.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author August Wilson will be honored as this year’s Ford Freedom Award recipient. Wilson is best known for his play “Fences,” and the recipient of the 1987 Tony Award for best play. 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. In 2007, Norman received the prestigious Disney Legend award, which 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. 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.

Ford says it has chosen honorees whose successes 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.”

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.

Source: Ford Motor Company