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Crusaders in Arms: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Judge Damon J. Keith

Posted by Gregory Lucas-Myers
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on Friday, 17 January 2014
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Judge Keith with Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Above: This photo, by Sonny Edwards Photography, was taken sometime between 1960 and 1968. Judge Keith is second from the left with his arm around the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is unknown who the other two men are in the photo. Photograph courtesy of Judge Damon Keith and the Collections and Exhibitions department of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Research, caption and scanning by Derek Thomas Sojda.)

Because of his work, Martin Luther King, Jr. was rightfully made an icon of peace and equality. But, even he knew it is impossible for one man to do everything. He needed the expertise and experience from those of other walks of life, who had different career paths and aspirations, but still held a deep passion for social justice. As such, he worked directly with teams of bright people, and kept even more people in his circles. One such person was Judge Damon Keith.

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13th Annual Ford Freedom Awards Celebrates "Champions of Justice"

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• 2011 event honors "Champions of Justice,” Constance Baker Motley and Damon J. Keith
• Program commemorates the 57th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education
• Proceeds benefit Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

DEARBORN, MICH. (May 11, 2011) – Two legendary federal jurists will be honored at the 13th Annual Ford Freedom Awards which will be held on the 57th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education. The Honorable Constance Baker Motley and the Honorable Damon J. Keith will be recognized for groundbreaking achievements in the field of law. The gala will be held on Tuesday, May 17, at 6:00 p.m. at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

“This year’s Ford Freedom Awards celebrates two iconic judges who have dedicated their lives to the principles on which our country was founded,” said Ziad Ojakli, group vice president, Government and Community Relations, Ford Motor Company. “Their perseverance in the fight against injustice is a source of courage and tenacity that can be an example for generations to come. It is our honor to commemorate their accomplishments and celebrate their lives.”

Minnijean Brown-Trickey, one of the members of Little Rock Nine, along with last season’s “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Kyle Massey are among guests who will be present at the VIP event. Trickey made history when she and eight other teenagers became involved in one of the most pivotal acts in the Civil Rights Movement—the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School in 1957.

The 2011 Ford Freedom Awards Honoree is the intrepid civil rights lawyer Judge Constance Baker Motley who was the first African-American woman to serve as a federal judge and in the New York Senate. Praised for looking beyond the status quo and implementing lasting change for African Americans and women alike, the posthumous award will be accepted by her son, Joel Wilson Motley III. Judge for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Damon J. Keith is this year’s Ford Freedom Award Scholar. His career has spanned more than four decades and he has ruled on many high-profile cases. As an attorney and judge, Keith was very active in promoting civil rights in Michigan. Together, the judges have upheld the rights of African-American citizens and the American constitution for over 100 years.

“It is an incredible honor to be recognized for continuing to embody the principles Constance Baker Motley lived by.  She was my friend and colleague and a trailblazer in the civil rights movement. As a judge, she was committed to toppling public desegregation in America,” said Judge Damon J. Keith. “She worked on some of the nation’s most well-known civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. I am humbled and overjoyed to share the spotlight with such a distinguished woman who played a pivotal role in our nation’s civil rights struggle.”

The Ford Freedom Award program recognizes two recipients each year. The Ford Freedom Award Honoree is presented posthumously to a distinguished African American who has dedicated his or her life to improving the African-American community and the world at large through their chosen field (arts, humanities, religion, business, politics, sports, science, entertainment, etc.). The Ford Freedom Award Scholar is an African American who has excelled on a national or international level in the same field as the Ford Freedom Award Honoree. The Scholar serves as a living legacy, carrying forth the ideals of the Honoree and furthering those achievements for a new generation.

“This year’s event is truly special due to the significance of the Brown v. Board of Education anniversary and the incredible legal legacy of Judge Constance Baker Motley,” said Juanita Moore, president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum. “And even amidst all the awards Judge Keith has and continues to receive, to be recognized as a Ford Freedom Award Scholar places him in the outstanding company of individuals like Dorothy Height and renowned surgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson.”

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, in partnership with Ford Motor Company, launched the Ford Freedom Award program in 1999 to create a forum for celebrating and recognizing individuals whose achievements brought forth lasting and positive change for African Americans and the world. The purpose of this annual fundraiser is to benefit the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the world’s largest institution dedicated to the African-American experience. The Museum houses over 30,000 artifacts and archival materials and is home to the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection; the Sheffield Collection, a repository of documents of the labor movement in Detroit; the interactive, core exhibit, And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture; and the terrazzo tile creation, Ring of Genealogy, by Hubert Massey.

The Ford Freedom Award program is made possible by a grant from Ford Motor Company. For additional event information and tickets, call 313-494-5800 or visit www.fordfreedomaward.com.

# # #

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.

About the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

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.  Founded in 1965 and located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience.  For more information, please visit www.chwmuseum.org.

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Friday Photo History: Judge Damon J. Keith & The Boys of Summer

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To honor this year's Ford Freedom Award Scholar, the Honorable Judge Damon J. Keith, as well as salute spring and the national pastime of baseball, here are two photographs that accomplish both.  Our first photo features Jackie Robinson and Judge Damon Keith, and is from the years 1960 - 1965.  The second photo features, from left to right, Willie Horton, Ernie Harwell, Judge Damon Keith, and Mike Ilitch, and is from the years 2000 - 2005.


Photographs courtesy of Judge Damon Keith and the Collections and Exhibitions department of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (http://chwmuseum.org). Research and scanning by Derek Thomas Sojda.  For more information please contact the Louise Lovett Wright Library and Robert L. Hurst Research Center at (313) 494-5840 or via email at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  For this and other informative posts, please visit http://chwmuseum.org/explore/blog.

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Champions of Justice: The Honorable Constance Baker Motley & the Honorable Damon J. Keith

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Each year, tens of thousands of visitors from around the world walk through the entrance of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and are immediately drawn to the Ring of Genealogy with its engraved gold-plated names and marble design on the floor of the Museum’s Ford Freedom Rotunda.  Soon visitors will also see the name of Judge Constance Baker Motley.  On occasion, the tour guides will inform many of them, particularly school-age children, why her name is in this place for only those who are held in the highest esteem in the annals of African American History.

 

On Tuesday May 17, 2011 at 6 pm, over 300 distinguished guests will gather at the Charles H. Wright Museum for the annual and stately Ford Freedom Awards Gala that will posthumously honor Judge Constance Baker Motley as a Champion of Justice.  The only female lawyer as part of the legendary NAACP Legal Defense Fund team, Constance Baker Motley, as a young law clerk under the tutelage of Thurgood Marshall, assisted in writing the briefs for the historic 1954 Brown v. Board case.  After Brown, the New York Times reported that she argued nearly every important Civil Rights case for two decades before becoming appointed the first black woman to serve as a federal district judge.

 

Also on this evening, the Honorable Damon J. Keith will be recognized as the living person who best exemplifies the character, stature, and values of the principal honoree.  Both Judges Baker Motley’s and Keith’s contributions and life will be presented in a special program in the Museum’s theater, an occasion not to be missed, especially by those in the legal and Civil Rights community.

 

Ford Motor Company and Charles H. Wright Museum honor both Judges Baker Motley and Keith because they are an essential part of our Nation’s quest to realize its most cherished ideals – liberty, freedom, and equality.  When Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, nearly a quarter of the population were enslaved, and women had no legal standing as citizens in this nation.  Almost immediately, courageous men and women, mostly white Quakers and free African Americans, voiced their opposition against the actions of a society that declared itself a free nation while enslaving a significant part of its population.  Their constant and relentless agitation eventually forced the nation to face its Constitutional contradictions.  This brought forth a great Civil War that resulted in the passage of the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery, the 14th Amendment, providing equal protection to all its citizens, including African Americans, and the 15th Amendment, providing African American men the right to vote.

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2011 Ford Freedom Award Essay Contest for Grades 4 - 8

Posted by Ted Canaday
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The Ford Freedom Award is given posthumously to honorees who have dedicated their life to improving the African American community and the world at large through their chosen fields. Each year, a Ford Freedom Award honoree and scholar are selected. The scholar is chosen for furthering the honoree's achievements for a new generation. The 2011 Ford Freedom Award will focus on the law and recognizes the accomplishments of Judge Constance Baker Motley, the 2011 Ford Freedom Award Honoree, and the 2011 Ford Freedom Award scholar, Judge Damon J. Keith

In celebration of the 2011 Ford Freedom Award's recognition of these noteworthy jurists, Michigan students in grades 4-8 are invited to submit essays by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 1 on the following topic:

The law affects people in many ways. Laws cover both big issues - business practices, violent crimes - and smaller issues - how many days kids go to school, what to do at a crosswalk or red light. Laws are national, state and local. Pick a law that affects you or your family every day. Research what the law was designed to do, how and when it was passed and how life in the community is better as a result of the law.

All participating classes will be invited to attend the FREE 2011 Scholar's Lecture to be held in the spring of 2011. The date and location of the event are yet to be determined. Seats at the lecture will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, with preference always given to classes participating in the essay contest.

Teachers of the winning students will receive tickets to the black-tie Ford Freedom Awards Gala.

Contest Prizes

1st Prize--$5,000 U.S. Savings Bond, Ford Freedom Award medal and certificate of merit for ONE winner
2nd Prize--$2,500 U.S. Savings Bond, Ford Freedom Award medal and certificate of merit for ONE winner
3rd Prize--$1,000 U.S. Savings Bond, Ford Freedom Award medal and certificate of merit for ONE winner
Honorable Mentions -- $250 U.S. Savings Bonds, Ford Freedom Award medals and certificates of merit for TWO winners

Click here for contest guidelines and an entry form

Brought to you by Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services in cooperation with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

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Friday Photo History: Judge Damon Keith with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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This week features a second photo from the Judge Damon Keith Collection. Damon J. Keith was born in Detroit, Michigan, and has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit since 1977. Prior to his appointment to the Court of Appeals, Judge Keith served as Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Judge Keith is a graduate of West Virginia State College (B.A. 1943), Howard University Law School (J.D. 1949), where he was elected Chief Justice of the Court of Peers, and Wayne State University Law School (LL.M. 1956). Judge Keith has consistently stood up for civil rights and the Constitution. His most famous decision was in the United States v. Sinclair case in which he ruled to prohibit warrantless wiretapping that had been perpetrated by the Nixon Administration. More recently Judge Keith ruled it unlawful for the Bush administration to conduct deportation hearings in secret whenever the government asserted that the people involved might be linked to terrorism. Judge Keith has also vigorously enforced the nation’s civil rights laws, most notably in the areas of employment and education.  In Stamps v. Detroit Edison Co., Judge Keith ruled the Detroit Edison Company had practiced systematic racial discrimination, resulting in fines against the company of $4 million and against the employee union of $250,000, and issued an order for the company to institute an aggressive affirmative action program.  These are just a few of the many cases in which Judge Keith has ruled on, but he has earned a reputation as an independent federal judge who would stand up to Presidents when they went against the Constitution. Throughout his career he has received many awards and honorary degrees that honor his distinguished career. This information was provided by the Damon J. Keith Collection at the Wayne State University Law School. For more information visit http://keithcollection.wayne.edu/about/bio.html.

This photo, by Sonny Edwards Photography, was taken sometime between 1960 and 1968. Judge Keith is second from the left with his arm around the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is unknown who the other two men are in the photo.

Photograph courtesy of Judge Damon Keith and the Collections and Exhibitions department of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (http://chwmuseum.org). Research, caption and scanning by Derek Thomas Sojda.  For more information please contact the Louise Lovett Wright Library and Robert L. Hurst Research Center at (313) 494-5840 or via email at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  For this and other informative posts, please visit http://chwmuseum.org/explore/blog.

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Friday Photo History: The Judge in his Chambers

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For February the Friday Photo Blog celebrates Black History Month, and our first photo features the honorable Judge Damon Keith. Judge Keith has given the blog access to his personal photo collection and we extend great appreciation, admiration, and a hearty thank you to him. I personally had the pleasure of working in the Judge's office for roughly four months during which the museum scanned and cataloged Judge Keith's personal photo collection. This was no easy task as every wall of Judge Keith's office is covered with photographs that span his entire career. There are photos of Judge Keith with John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sammie Davis Jr., Jackie Robinson, Ernie Harwell, and so many more. If a person was active in politics (especially Detroit politics), sports, or entertainment from the 1950s until now, chances are Judge Keith has a photo with them. Amongst these photos of celebrities and politicians he also prominently displays photos of friends, employees, and law clerks. At first I was surprised that these photos were displayed with the others, but after working closely with Judge Keith and seeing how he treated people I realized that he holds all people in high regard. As we completed the project, he graciously asked if we would pose for a photo with him; this is a testament to the type of man Judge Damon Keith is - not only a great defender of civil rights, the constitution, and democracy, but a first-rate human being.

This photo hangs in the Judge's office. It is of the Judge in his chambers posing for a photo while clerks, lawyers, and associates work behind him. It was most likely taken sometime between 1975 and 1989.  Check back next week for another photo of Judge Damon Keith and information on his astounding career.

Date: 1975 - 1989.  Photograph courtesy of Judge Damon Keith and the Collections and Exhibitions department of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (http://chwmuseum.org). Research, caption and scanning by Derek Thomas Sojda.  For more information please contact the Louise Lovett Wright Library and Robert L. Hurst Research Center at (313) 494-5840 or via email at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  For this and other informative posts, please visit http://chwmuseum.org/explore/blog.

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