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Ella Fitzgerald, Al Jarreau Honored with Ford Freedom Awards

The Seventh Annual Ford Freedom Award program will honor two jazz musicians this year – Ella Fitzgerald (pictured) with the Ford Freedom Award and Al Jarreau as the Ford Freedom Award Scholar – tonight at a black-tie gala at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The Ford Freedom Award, created in 1999, posthumously honors an individual who dedicated his or her life to improving the African American community and the world in general. Fitzgerald will be honored with a brass place bearing her name, which will be added to the museum’s Ring of Genealogy and unveiled during the awards ceremony. Fitzgerald’s son, Ray Brown Jr., will accept the award on her behalf.

The Ford Freedom Award Scholar honor is given to a living individual who has demonstrated excellence in his or her chosen field. Jarreau will accept this honor and will also give a keynote speech to nearly 1,700 students at the Ford Freedom Award Scholar’s Lecture on May 25.

Fitzgerald, in addition to her popularity and 13 Grammy Awards, was also the recipient of the National Medal of Arts, France’s Commander of Arts and Letters Award, Kennedy Center Honors and numerous honorary doctorates for her contributions to the arts. She died on June 15, 1996.

Jarreau has earned five Grammy Awards and is the only singer to have won Best Vocalist Grammys in three separate categories, jazz, R&B and pop.

The award gala is a major fundraiser for the museum’s educational programs, exhibits and community outreach initiatives. More information on the museum and the ceremony can be found at the Museum of African American History’s website.

Originally Published