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'Freedom Riders' to be part of Beacon Awards

'Freedom Riders' to be part of Beacon Awards

American civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton will introduce five "Freedom Riders," civil rights activists that rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia, at The MLB Beacon Awards Banquet presented by Belk on Saturday, May 14, in Atlanta.

The Freedom Riders scheduled to attend include Representative John Lewis, Bernadette Lafayette, Diane Nash, Carol Ruth Silver and Hank Thomas. The Freedom Riders and Rev. Sharpton will be recognized on the field during pregame ceremonies prior to the Delta Civil Rights Game at Turner Field between the Braves and the Phillies on May 15.

The Freedom Rides bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement and called national attention to the methods used to enforce segregation in the region. Freedom Riders were arrested for alleged offenses such as trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws.

The MLB Beacon Awards Banquet presented by Belk will celebrate the achievements of individuals whose lives are emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement. Rev. Jesse Jackson, a key civil rights leader, will be presenting the Beacon of Life award to Hall of Famer and longtime Cubs star Ernie Banks. Don Newcombe, the four-time All-Star and the MLB Cy Young Award and National League MVP Award winner in 1956 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, will present Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman with the Beacon of Hope. Harry Belafonte, a notable entertainer and social activist, will be giving Grammy Award-winning artist Carlos Santana the Beacon of Change.

The event will honor Hall of Famer and Braves legend Hank Aaron, with Rev. Joseph Lowery -- a civil rights movement leader who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference -- delivering the keynote speech.

The banquet is one of many festivities scheduled to occur in the days leading up to the 2011 Delta Civil Rights Game.

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for