1972 Aubrey M. Daniel III, for his courageous statement to President Nixon that the workings of American jurisprudence cannot be subverted to political purposes, that the “United States must be a government of laws, not men.”
1973 Peter H. Bridge and Earl Caldwell, for their courageous stand of facing, and in the case of Peter Bridge, imprisonment rather than reveal their source of information for newspaper stories.
1974 Henry Durham, for blowing the whistle on the boondoggling of large companies on government money and calling attention to the defects of the C5 Lockheed plane that subsequently crashed in Viet Nam with numerous orphans on board.
1975 Jerrold terHorst, for resigning his post as White House Secretary to President Gerald B. Ford when he learned from outside sources that the President intended to pardon Richard Nixon.
1976 Joan Claybrook, for her spirited advocacy in the pursuit of social justice and her courage in confronting vested economic and political interests.
1977 Dr. Luis Reque, co-founder and executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received the Award in recognition of the extreme activism with which he fought for human rights in the turbulent countries of Brazil, Cuba, and Chile.
1978 Father Bruce Ritter, who created a shelter for thousands of homeless teenagers in the Times Square area of New York City.
1979 Karen Silkwood was granted the Award posthumously. Her life was cut off tragically when she attempted to blow the whistle on safety hazards in a nuclear facility.
1980 Michael Pertschuk, the then Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, for his work in the regulation of businesses to the benefit of the ordinary consumer.
1981 Robert C. Eckhardt, U.S. Congressman from 1966 to 1980, for his civic courage as defender of the United States Constitution and protector of the well-being of the common people and his resistance to the pressures of powerful special interest groups.
1982 Eugene Babb and Stephen Joseph, MD, for their courage and integrity in resigning their positions with the United States Agency for International Development when the United States cast the only vote against the resolution to stop marketing infant formula in third world counties at the United Nationals World Health Assembly in Geneva in May 1981.
1983 Joann Bell, for her firm stand supporting the separation of church and state despite extreme persecution she suffered as a result of her actions.
1984 Robert E. White, for his strength and courage in demanding that the United States should insist on the improvement of human rights in El Salvador before giving that country any money or aid. Because of his action, he was recalled as Ambassador.
1985 Mary Sinclair, in recognition of her 15 year opposition to the construction of a nuclear electrical plant in Midland, Michigan by the Consumers Power Company. She persisted in her efforts despite personal attacks on her, harassment of her children, her husband’s loss of clients in his law practice, and bomb threats. In July 1984, Mrs. Sinclair emerged as the victor when the Consumer Power Com¬pany abandoned the project.
1986 Dr. Helen Caldicott, for her sustained and outstanding effort, pursued in the face of opposition, to raise human consciousness to the threat of nuclear war. Her campaign to stop the arms race included the founding of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament, and the authorship of Missile Envy (1984) and Nuclear Madness (1978).
1987 Dr. Matthew Ies Spetter, for unwavering devotion to ethical principles, both before and during his 35 years of leadership in the Ethical Culture Movement. For his efforts locally, nationally, and internationally to help heal and rescue the human spirit, and for his courage during the time he was in the Dutch underground during World War II.
1988 Martha Honey and Tony Avirgan, U.S. journalists, for investigating the attempted assassination of dissident contra leader Eden Pastora at La Penca, Nicaragua. They have been the target of death threats; have had to send their children to safety in the U.S. (they were based in Costa Rica). Their investigation resulted in the Christic Institute’s civil lawsuit against the private network behind the Iran/Contra scandal.
1989 Ginny Durrin, a Washington, D.C. filmmaker, for documenting the urgent issues confronting the nation today: the plight of the homeless, AIDS, teenage drunk driving, and workers’ rights.
1991 Derrick A. Bell, for outstanding devotion to ethical principles and for his compassion and courageous example–costly in mental, monetary, and career commitment, in choosing an unpaid leave to protest the failure of Harvard Law School to appoint a black female professor to its tenured faculty.
1993 Dr. Margot O’Toole, for moral courage and steadfastness in upholding and integrity in raising valid questions–at great personal sacrifice–in her scientific community regarding research that needed to be reevaluated. She is honored for her determination in the face of great opposition in her search for truth in scientific research and in her everyday life.
1995 Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, for her demonstrated courage and leadership addressing sensitive public health issues; for advocating the right of young people to share knowledge and communicate openly and for outstanding devotion to ethical principles.
1997 Judge Abner J. Mikva, for outstanding devotion to ethical principles and lifelong commitment and advocacy on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged and the oppressed as a lawyer, congressman, judge, and legal counsel to the President of the United States.
1999 Daryl Davis, for displaying extraordinary moral courage in combating racism, for teaching, through his actions and writing, the importance of reaching out to those who disagree with us, and for advancing the cause of racial equality.
2000 The Innocence Project, a clinical law program for students at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, which provides pro bono legal assistance to inmates who are challenging their convictions on the basis of DNA testing of evidence. Founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck, Professor of Law, and Peter J. Neufeld, Esq., the Innocence Project has represented or assisted in some 40 cases where convictions have been reversed or overturned.
2001 John M. Swomley, who for over 60 years has been a world-class peace and justice activist, humanist, respected speaker and prolific writer. His thoroughly researched analysis is well-known to the readers of the Humanist and The Human Quest magazines and his monthly Facts for Action. He is a nationally recognized leader on the issues of Separation of Church and State, and Freedom of Religion.
2003 Sam Daley-Harris, President and Founder of RESULTS Education Fund, an organization dedicated to mass educational strategies to generate the will to end world hunger. RESULTS organized a Microcredit Summit attended by more than 2,900 participants from 137 countries and launched a nine-year campaign to reach 100 million of the world’s poorest families, especially the women of those families, with credit for self-employment and other financial and business services by 2005.
2005 Franklin Kameny, Ph.D., a leader in the gay rights movement since the 1950s. Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Kameny organized the first gay demonstration in front of the White House in 1965 and successfully lobbied to get the ACLU to support the effort to end antigay discrimination in federal employment. He established the DC branch of the Mattachine Society, worked to repeal DC’s sodomy law, and compelled the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its illness list, which led them to honor him for his contribution to psychotherapy.
2006 Kathy Kelly, a teacher, activist for peace, and war tax refuser, has risked fines and jail for nonviolent protests in Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq, and Palestine as well as in this country. She helped initiate the Voices in the Wilderness campaign to end UN/US sanctions against Iraq, and helps coordinate the Voices for Creative Nonviolence campaign. In 2005 she published “Other Lands Have Dreams: from Baghdad to Pekin Prison” –where she served three months in 2004 for attempting to close a military training school in Ft. Benning, GA.
2007 Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was founded in 1981 to promote press freedom around the world and to defend the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. Through its defense of journalists, CPJ upholds the right of all people to have access to independent sources of information, an essential part of a free society. Using stringent reporting standards, CPJ’s journalists and human rights activists conduct intensive investigations into hundreds of press freedom violations each year. CPJ effectively calls attention to these abuses by publicly denouncing attacks against the press and acting on behalf of imprisoned and threatened journalists. Joel Simon, Executive Director of CPJ accepted the Elliot-Black Award on their behalf.
2008 New Jerseyans for Alternatives to Death Penalty (NJADP), a statewide grassroots organization with 12,000 members and 200 supporting organizations. In January 2007, the 13 member bipartisan New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission recommended that the death penalty in New Jersey be replaced with life in prison without parole. In December 2007, responding to the Commission’s report, the Legislature passed in a bipartisan vote S-17, which would replace the death penalty with life without parole. On December 17, 2007, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed the historic death penalty abolition bill into law, making New Jersey the first state to legislatively abolish the death penalty since 1965.
2009 James J. Yee, a West Point graduate serving as the Muslim Chaplain for the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, witnessed and objected to the cruel and degrading abuses of detainees at the hands of the U.S. Military. For this, Chaplain Yee was accused of spying, espionage and aiding in the Taliban and Al-Qaeda prisoners and subjected to the sensory deprivation techniques that he was reporting against. After months of government investigation, all criminal charges were dropped, and Chaplain Yee was awarded a second Army Commendation Medal for “exceptionally meritorious service.”
2010 Thomas Warfield, the founder/artistic director of PeaceArt International–a national and global outreach, not-for-profit organization that works with both mainstream and marginalized community groups around the world. PAI works with children, the elderly, people with mental and physical disabilities, the homeless, AIDS/HIV and other terminally ill patients, and incarcerated individuals by utilizing the arts and the creative process to develop awareness for the purpose of building world peace. PAI uses the performing arts to dismantle barriers, such as racial, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation and economic differences which are imposed on us by society and prevent our acknowledgement and enjoyment of our inherent human connection to all people.
2011 Frances Fox Piven, one of America’s most thoughtful and provocative commentators on America’s social welfare system for decades. As a veteran of the war on poverty and welfare-rights protest, she has led academic and activist opposition and has appeared in numerous public forums. These reforms resulted in a major reduction in extreme poverty, and also precipitated the current furor in the US over welfare reform. Frances Fox Piven has made it her lasting commitment to create a society in which all may thrive. She has been a consistent proponent of peace as well as justice, from her efforts against the Viet Nam war to her analysis of the destructive effects of the previous administration’s military interventions. She is being vilified and targeted by a popular media spokesperson whose mission is to destroy progressive changes.
2012 Robert Gangi, Senior Policy Advocate at The Urban Justice Center, is the founder of the Police Reform Organizing Project and a member of the United Social Service Board of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Mr. Gangi also served as the Executive Director of the Correctional Association (CA) for over 29 years and founded the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) at the Urban Justice Center. He has been an activist, community organizer and public policy advocate in NYC for over 40 years. Bob’s deep concern for the high ideals of justice and his belief in the dignity of every human being has brought public attention to and the reduction of the expense and wastefulness of prison and jail expansion. He is a recognized expert on criminal justice and law enforcement issues with a particular focus on police and prison concerns.
2013 Southern Poverty Law Center, founded to ensure that the promises of the civil rights movement became a reality for all. The SPLC was formally incorporated in 1971 and in the decades since its founding it has shut down some of the nation’s most dangerous hate groups by winning crushing, multimillion-dollar jury verdicts on behalf of their victims. It has dismantled institutional racism in the South, reformed juvenile justice practices, and shattered barriers to equality for women, children and the disabled, and protected low-wage immigrant workers from abuse. It also has reached out to the next generation with Teaching Tolerance, a program that provides educators with free classroom materials that teach students the value of tolerance and diversity. As the country has grown increasingly diverse, the SPLC’s work has only become more vital. And its history is evidence of an unwavering resolve to promote and protect our nation’s most cherished ideals by standing up for those who have no other champions.
2015 Dr. Sandra Steingraber for protecting our planet and informing others on how to get active as well. She is a biologist, writer, and climate activist who writes about climate change, ecology, and the links between human health and the environment. Dr. Steingraber is the Distinguished Scholar in Residence in Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Ithaca College and has spent much of her off time attending environmental meetings, testifying before governmental bodies, addressing anti-fracking rallies, and being jailed for acts of civil disobedience in defense of Seneca Lake.
2016 Millennial Activists United has been protesting in the streets, organizing peaceful civil disobedience, and leading positive change since it was founded by Brittany Ferrell, Alexis Templeton, and Ashley Yates in August 2014, shortly after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. The activists’ collective is the forefront of the youth-led grassroots movement to end racial injustice and police brutality in America. MAU has energized thousands of individuals – many of whom had no previous interaction with social justice – and has raised the Black Lives Matter message to a national stage at significant personal risk. They have shown a tireless commitment to human dignity and equality.
2017 Free Your Voice is a Baltimore youth group that fights for environmental justice. It was started by, and is composed of, students at Ben Franklin High School (a Baltimore City public school). The group has formed as a committee of United Workers, a local nonprofit dedicated to fighting environmentally unsound development that is particularly detrimental to low income residents. The group’s efforts and demonstrations helped defeat what would have been the nation’s largest incinerator less than a mile away from a high school. Some were arrested during a 2015 protest held at the Maryland Department of the Environment. Free Your Voice has highlighted how environmental injustice impacts marginalized communities and inspired residents to engage in political action that betters their lives.
2018 Faith Spotted Eagle is a 69 year old grandmother who lives on Ihanktonwan Dakota Territory (Yankton Sioux) in Southeastern South Dakota. Throughout her long career, she has been a high school counselor/teacher/principal; manager of Human Services Programs and Youth Programs; Indian Child Welfare Worker; Organizational Development Consultant; Teacher in a Psychiatric setting; Peacemaker/mediator; Community College Instructor; PTSD therapist and Community Activist. She was a recognized leader in the 10-year fight against the KXL Pipeline intrusion into Treaty Territory, since 2007. She was also an elder leader in protecting the Horne of the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock in 2016, which gained worldwide attention. She was born into protecting the water and fighting federal environmental racism as her community of White Swan was destroyed by the coming of the US Army Corps Ft. Randall Dam, at the age of 2 years old.
2019 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was an inspiration and a model for millions of Americans in response to great tragedy. On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at the school killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others. Several of them were shot while protecting others by holding doors, barricading entrances, and shielding people with their bodies. MSD High and its surrounding community has shown fortitude, resilience, and courage in response to the shooting, but also creativity and outspoken activism that served as an inspiration for so many others.