Tom Morello Earns ‘Spirit of John Brown Freedom Award’

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello is set to receive the Spirit of John Brown Freedom Award later this week, with the honor named after the iconic abolitionist. The rocker is one of three recipients, along with choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher and visual artist Karen Davidson Seward [via Billboard].

John Brown grew up in an anti-slavery family in the 19th century and later became an abolitionist leader by becoming a conductor on the Underground Railroad and establishing the League of Gileadites to help slaves escape to Canada, according to The American Battlefield Trust. In 1859, he was executed for leading a failed raid in Harpers Ferry, West Va., which was intended to incite a slave rebellion. He was buried in the Adirondack mountains of New York state.

The award, as defined by John Brown Lives, was established in 2016, and honors individuals who are passionate about civil and human rights. Morello and the rest of his RATM bandmates have been longtime activists against social and political injustices, and the guitarist will be the first musician to receive the award.

Martha Swan, founder of the organization, explained that Morello was chosen to receive the award because of his efforts as “a troubadour and political activist who deploys his art and energy on behalf of freedom fighters everywhere, from striking nurses and teachers, to domestic workers and Black Lives Matter organizers, to veterans against war — he extends his solidarity to every impulse toward peace and justice.”

Morello shared an illustration of Brown on his social media yesterday (May 9) in commemoration of the abolitionist’s birthday. “A white man who fought by any means necessary to free black people, and gave his life in that cause,” the rocker wrote in the caption.

The ceremony is set to take place May 14 at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, which is nestled in the Adirondacks.

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