Freedom Summer Awardees To Be Honored For Championing Voting Rights

Mar 2, 2020

A former national president of the League of Women Voters and a popular satellite radio host are this year's recipients of the Freedom Summer of '64 Award from Miami University.

Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins was the 15th president of League of Women Voters, serving two terms. She was the first African American to hold the position. Joe Madison hosts "The Joe Madison Show" on SiriusXM, calling attention to social injustices and promoting voting rights. (You can read more about both recipients below.)

The Freedom Summer of '64 Award was created in 2017 to honor people who advance civil rights and social justice. In June 1964, hundreds of college students trained at Western College for Women - now part of Miami University - before going to Mississippi to do voter registration.

"The whole purpose ... is to honor the memory of those who did this and to stir up folks to commit themselves to voting and participating in the process," says Ronald Scott, vice president for institutional diversity and inclusion at Miami University.

Scott says the award is particularly important this year.

"We've got a chance in an election year to raise the conversation about voting and why it's important and the sacrifices that have been made so that folks can exercise this right. We think this is important and timely and we hope it will inspire folks to at least register and do their duty."

Previous honorees include civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis and Mt. Zion Methodist Church, the last place Freedom Summer martyrs James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were seen before being killed in Mississippi. The church honors their memory each June.

Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins will receive her award March 12 at Miami's Kumler Chapel. Joe Madison is scheduled to accept his award June 23 during the National Civil Rights Conference being held on Miami's Western campus.

Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins

Credit Courtesy of Miami University

Jefferson-Jenkins graduated from Western College for Women in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in social science and education. From 1998 to 2002, she served as both the 15th national president of the League of Women Voters of the United States – the first African American to hold the role – and chair of the League of Women Voters Education Fund.

As chair of the league's Voter Education Fund, 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, will be released this month in honor of the organization’s centennial celebration.

After graduating from Western College, 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.

Joe Madison

Credit Courtesy of Miami University

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.