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Current Winner

Wil Haygood, '76

Wil Haygood is seated in a red chair in front of a projection screen

Miami University will honor Wil Haygood with the Freedom Summer of ’64 Award on Nov. 14 during an event at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. The invitation-only award presentation starts at 6:00 p.m. It includes a talk by Haygood titled "Why 1964 Still Matters," and he will also reflect upon his national and international reporting career. 

As a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1983, Haygood asked to be sent to the nation’s capital to cover the 20th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington. Although the story had already been assigned to another reporter, Haygood took a Greyhound bus to Washington, D.C., paying his own way, then called the newsroom from D.C. to say he was going to write some stories. All of them made it into the paper.

The next year, as a reporter and feature writer for The Boston Globe, Haygood approached the national editor to write about the 20th anniversary of the deaths of three Freedom Summer activists — Michael Schwerner, 24, James Chaney, 21, and Andrew Goodman, 20 — who were murdered in Mississippi by the Ku Klux Klan after training in Oxford. He asked to leave Boston to interview their families. It became his first national assignment for the newspaper.

Haygood had numerous other experiences, including traveling the length of the Mississippi River in 1987 with Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe photographer Stan Grossfeld to examine the political, racial, and social heritage of America — an update to Mark Twain’s classic, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

For 17 straight days in 1992, he filed stories from Los Angeles after the city erupted following the acquittal of four police officers who had been charged with beating Black motorist Rodney King.

Haygood reached South Africa while its system of segregation, known as apartheid, was still in effect. He spent two months there and witnessed the 1990 release from prison of civil rights activist Nelson Mandela, who had been imprisoned for 27 years. He became the first Black president of South Africa.

Previous Winners


National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Staff

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center—embodies the spirit, mission, and tenacity that sustained the bravery of the Freedom Summer Activists. The center is a national icon that enriches our country and community by educating and creating more advocates for equality. For nearly 20 years, the Freedom Center has awakened global consciousness about the true meaning of freedom.


Reginald Hudlin, American Film Director

Reginald Hudlin, American Film Director

Reginald Hudlin

Reginald Hudlin is a writer, producer, director, and executive who promotes diversity in his work. Hudlin, a founder and president of Hudlin Entertainment, is known as a “renaissance man” for his work in film, television, and comic books. He is unique in his approaches as a writer, producer, director, and executive. 

“We are so honored to present Reginald Hudlin with the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award,” Miami University President Gregory Crawford said. “His work and passion to promote diversity in the film industry and bring Black American stories to the forefront have advanced justice and equality on a national and global scale.” 
Hudlin wrote and directed his first film, “House Party,” in 1990. He produced Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film, “Django Unchained,” which earned an Academy Award nomination for best picture. 
He directed and produced his 2017 film, “Marshall,” which starred Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.
In television, he produced shows such as “The Boondocks,” “Friday Night Vibes” with Tiffany Haddish, The Black Panther animated series, and specials such as the “Oscars” and the “NAACP Image Awards.” He was the first Black person to produce the Emmys, which he has done twice. 
Hudlin also is an author, writing for the comic books Black Panther, Spider-Man, and the Milestone Media line, Black superheroes. 
“I’m known to zag when I’m supposed to zig,” Hudlin said of his long-lasting career, which has provided him with a platform to honor the Black experience through powerful but grounded characters in true-to-life storytelling.

Wayne and Teresa Embry, Social Justice Advocates

Wayne and Teresa Embry, Social Justice Advocates

Wayne (Miami '58) and Teresa (Miami '60) Embry

The Freedom Summer of '64 Award honors the Embrys’ lifetime of commitment to social justice, for breaking racial barriers, and for their mentorship.

“Over the last year, our nation has undergone tremendous reckoning on issues of racism, social justice, equity, equality, and inclusion. Those of us who fight for change today, stand on the shoulders of the great women and men like Terri and Wayne Embry, who were on the front lines of the civil rights movement in the 1960s,” Miami President Gregory Crawford said. “Advocating for racial justice and equality is never a linear path. It is never easy, popular, or safe, but it is always necessary ... We honor the Embrys today for their strength, their courage, and their lifelong dedication to civil rights, equity, and equality.”

As he accepted the award, Embry spoke of Terri, his wife of 62 years, and her advocacy work.

“I’m only the recipient of about 25 percent of this award. The other 75 percent goes to my beloved wife, Terri,” Embry said. “Because she’s the one who was an advocate for change, from her high school days to her days at Miami … She was a great mentor to a lot of young people. She was a great advocate of change.”

“I came to Miami University and fell in love with the place and still am,” Embry said. “Love and Honor.”


Joe Madison, Radio Host

Joe Madison, Radio Host 

Joe Madison

"The Joe Madison Show," which airs weekday mornings on SiriusXM's Urban View channel 126, calls attention to social injustice around the world, including human rights abuses in southern Sudan.

In 2015, Madison made history by broadcasting live from Cuba, the first American radio host to do so in more than 50 years. That same year he set a Guinness World Record for the longest on-air broadcast, 52 hours, which raised more than $250,000 for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

A native of Dayton, Madison was named one of Talker magazine's 100 Most Important Talk Radio Hosts 

nine times, often in the top 10, and has interviewed world leaders including President Barack Obama.

Before becoming a broadcaster in 1980, Madison was the youngest executive director of the Detroit branch of the NAACP. He eventually was appointed national political director and a member of the organization's board of directors.

Madison earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Washington University (St. Louis) in 1971, the first in his family to earn a college degree. He was an all-conference running back on the football team, a baritone soloist in the university choir and a disc jockey at the campus radio station. He has continued to support Washington University as a member of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society and has generously supported scholarships, athletics and the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement.

Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, Educator

Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, Educator

Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins

Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins graduated from Western College for Women in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in social science and education. In 1998, she was elected and served two terms as the 15th national president of the League of Women Voters of the United States—the first African American to hold the role; and from 1998-2002 she also served as chair of the League of Women Voters Education Fund.

During her leadership of the League of Women Voters, Dr. Jefferson-Jenkins promoted its strength as a grassroots organization and called for a focus on local elections, as well as increasing the number of voters who participate in all elections. In the early days of the internet, she promoted the Wired for Democracy project to increase participation and advocate for campaign finance reform.

As chair of the league's Voter Education Fund, Dr. Jefferson-Jenkins promoted democracy-building efforts in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, the Netherlands, Israel and a group of African countries. She is the author of The Road to Black Suffrage and One Man, One Vote: The History of the African-American Vote in the United States. Her new book, The Untold Story of Women of Color in the League of Women Voters, was released in March 2020 in honor of the organization's centennial celebration.

After graduating from Western College, Dr. Jefferson-Jenkins started her career as a public school teacher and administrator. She earned a master’s degree in education from John Carroll University, an educational specialist degree from Kent State University, and a doctoral degree from Cleveland State University.


Mt. Zion United Methodist Church

Mt. Zion United Methodist Church members

Mt. Zion United Methodist Church

In June 2019, Miami presented the award to Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Each year, the Mt. Zion congregation recognizes the June 21 anniversary of the disappearance and murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner—three civil rights workers who traveled from Oxford, Ohio, to investigate an arson at the historic church. Their bodies were found six weeks later, victims of the Ku Klux Klan.

Speaking during the 2019 memorial service, Ronald Scott, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Miami, said what Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner wanted for us was to never forget and join the struggle.

"The struggle continues with the next generation," he said. "It continues because of what you, the members of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, have done for the last 55 years. You have kept the memory and the dream alive. You have, without any hesitation, without any reward, simply in the name of honor and justice and freedom and doing what is right, continued a legacy. You have taught us and showed all of us we should not forget. And, when we come together, we can move toward that dream."

The church's memorial is a preconference activity for the National Civil Rights Conference in June.


John Lewis, U.S. Representative

John Lewis, U.S. Representative

U.S. Representative John Lewis

On March 19, 2018, civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia received the inaugural Freedom Summer of ’64 Award. 

In 1964, John Lewis, the chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), encouraged college students around the U.S. to help register African Americans in Mississippi to vote. Nearly 800 of those students trained for that work and for nonviolent resistance, in Oxford, Ohio, on the campus of then-Western College for Women (now part of Miami University).

Lewis began his civil rights activism with the 1961 Freedom Rides, challenging segregated interstate bus terminals across the South. Though peacefully protesting, he was beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police. From 1963 to 1966, Lewis was chairman of SNCC, which he helped form. SNCC was largely responsible for organizing civic student activism, including sit-ins and other activities.

Before working in more formal voting rights agencies, Lewis endured 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries in his justice-seeking endeavors. He was a co-leader, on March 7, 1965, of more than 600 peaceful, orderly protestors marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, intending to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday."

Lewis was active in numerous other civil rights efforts and activities over the years. He was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and elected to Congress in 1986, serving as U.S. Representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since then.

Miami University presented the Freedom Summer of '64 Award to Lewis in a ceremony March 19, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Students, alumni and guests recognized Rep. Lewis for his lifetime of civil rights accomplishments.

The presentation and acceptance speech follow:

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