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Mayor Greg Fischer Newsroom

Mayor to Present Freedom Award

Thursday January 12, 2006

Presentation During Orchestra's free Martin Luther King Concert

Mayor Jerry Abramson today announced that Raoul Cunningham is the 2006 recipient of Louisville Metro’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award. Cunningham, a civil-rights activist for five decades, is president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Louisville Branch.

Abramson will present the award Sunday, Jan. 15, during the Louisville Orchestra’s annual concert honoring Dr. King. The free concert, entitled "I, Too, Have a Dream," will be conducted by Robert Franz and begins at 3 p.m. at the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall.
"Dr. King’s legacy is mirrored in our hometown through the life, the voice, and the ongoing work of Raoul Cunningham," Abramson said. "His commitment to equality is unwavering and has made Louisville a better place."
Abramson presented the first Freedom Award in 1987 during his initial administration as mayor of the city of Louisville. The award recognizes citizens who have dedicated their lives to promoting justice, peace, freedom, non-violence, racial equality and civic activism.

"I am deeply honored to be named recipient of the 2006 Louisville Metro’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award and am very proud of the progress we, as a community, have made during my involvement in the struggle for equality. The success we have enjoyed in Louisville can not be contributed to any one individual or organization but shared by the countless number of citizens who have demonstrated, boycotted, marched, and cast their ballots to bring about a change in our society."

Cunningham, 62, is a Louisville native who was elected as president of the NAACP’s Louisville branch in November 2004. In this post, he has said the organization is focusing on equality in the educational and justice systems, including jury selection, bail, sentencing and parole. Cunningham previously served for three years as regional director for the NAACP’s national Voter Empowerment Program, working to remove barriers to voting and increase the number of minorities who participate in the electoral process.

Cunningham began his career in civil rights work as a member of the NAACP chapter at age 14, helping with voter registration. His activism as a teen continued, as he organized and led nonviolent demonstrations at Louisville theaters, restaurants and stores that in the 1950s and early 1960s did not welcome African Americans. His leadership during the "Nothing New for Easter" campaign paved the way for African Americans to be able to try on clothes in downtown Louisville stores.
Cunningham attended Howard University where his activism continued. At Howard, he organized a Young Democrats chapter and was named president of the D.C. Federation of College Young Democrats and vice president of the Young Democrats Club of America.

Cunningham later served as manager for Georgia Davis Powers’ successful campaign for the Kentucky senate. E.On U.S. is presenting sponsor of the concert.
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If you go

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert
"I, Too, Have a Dream," performed by the Louisville Orchestra and conducted by Robert Franz, with Mayor Abramson presenting the Freedom Award after the concert’s introductory number.

Sunday, Jan. 15, 3 p.m.

Kentucky Center, Whitney Hall, 501 W. Main Street Admission is free, no tickets required. Arrive early for best seating selection.

TARC is providing free round-trip transportation from 12 area community centers and churches. For information on pick-up and drop-off times and locations, visit