The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights will honor AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, lifelong social justice activist Shirley Sherrod, and Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese at its Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award Dinner to be held on May 12 in Washington, D.C.
“As our current political climate is steeped in wedge politics and efforts to divide our nation rather than celebrate our rich diversity, all of us who cherish equality and equal opportunity have been energized by three strong voices of inclusion, three remarkable champions of social justice,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference.
As president of the AFL-CIO, Trumka leads America’s largest coalition of public and private sector labor unions, representing more than 12 million workers across the country. A coal miner from southwestern Pennsylvania, he worked his way up the ranks of the United Mineworkers, serving as their president for 14 years, during which time he advanced workers’ rights domestically and also established solidarity with South African mineworkers in their fight against apartheid. He has been a steadfast leader on issues ranging from health and safety to pay equity and economic justice.
Sherrod is a nationally known activist working on issues of economic justice and racial disparity. Hailing from rural Georgia, her work for social justice and equality began early in her life. She became involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during its heyday in the early 1960s. She has worked on behalf of African-American farmers, helping to build assets and wealth among a historically dispossessed group. Working with her husband Charles Sherrod, she formed New Communities, Inc., a model community land trust that eventually became the largest tract of African-American owned land in the United States.
Solmonese has helped build the Human Rights Campaign into one of the nation’s most powerful progressive lobbying organizations, with a current membership of more than 750,000. He is a consummate coalition builder, standing at the vanguard on a range of legislative victories including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010. Mr. Solmonese has played a vital role in shifting public opinion to build the LGBT community’s presence in corporate, education, and faith-based environments across the nation.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award is presented to those who best exemplify “selfless and devoted service in the cause of equality.” The award was established by The Leadership Conference in 1977 to honor Hubert Humphrey and those who emulate his dedication to and passion for civil rights.
“In the spirit of our award’s namesake, our honorees have answered Senator Humphrey’s exhortation to embrace civil rights and to ‘walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights,'” said Henderson.