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The event, which honors the exemplary contributions of racial justice leaders across the nonprofit, public, and corporate sectors, will take place at Cipriani Wall Street on October 4

WASHINGTON (October 4, 2023) – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law will host its annual Higginbotham Leadership Awards Gala on October 4 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. The ceremony, one of the most significant annual events in the civil rights community, celebrates the exemplary contributions of leaders across sectors, including policymakers, corporate executives, professional athletes, authors, artists, activists, and other individuals who have championed the causes of racial justice and equity. This year’s event marks the 60th Anniversary of the organization, which was founded at a meeting convened by President John F. Kennedy in the summer of 1963, just weeks before the heralded March on Washington for Jobs in Freedom. 

This year’s honorees will include: 

  • LaTosha Brown, Co-Founder & Chief Doer, Black Voters Matter: LaTosha Brown will receive the Distinguished Civil Rights Advocate Award for her work as a community organizer, political strategist, and consultant through the voting rights group she co-founded, Black Voters Matter. Brown’s organization, which played an especially critical role in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election in Alabama and the 2020-21 Georgia state elections, has become a catalyst for change in increasing political power in Black communities.
  • Jelani Cobb, Dean and Henry Luce Professor of the Columbia Journalism School: Jelani Cobb will receive the Beacon of Justice Award for his work advocating for racial justice in his thought-provoking scholarship, his writing and broadcast commentary for mass audiences, and in his teaching. Cobb, a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and MSNBC, co-edited The Matter of Black Lives in 2021, a collection of The New Yorker’s most resonant writing on Black history and culture in America.
  • Universal Music Group: The world’s leading music distribution company will be recognized with the Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award for its work in supporting and advancing equity, social justice, and inclusion. In 2020, Universal Music Group created the Task Force for Meaningful Change, led by Black executives, to fight for lasting change in areas such as economic empowerment and business development; housing; legal services and bail; mental health services; legislative reform; physical health services; and voting resources and education. 

The event will also feature Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter, and actor Gregory Porter as its special musical guest. The evening will be emceed by Melissa Murray, frequent guest on broadcast news shows, co-host of the podcast “Strict Scrutiny,” and Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. 

“As we commemorate our 60th anniversary at this year’s Higginbotham Leadership Awards Gala, we look back with pride on a history marked by resilience and triumph in the face of adversity while also looking toward the challenging but necessary work ahead,” said Damon Hewitt, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “Sixty years since the Lawyers’ Committee was founded during a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, our mission is as important as ever. As we face relentless attacks on our communities—from the courthouse to the schoolhouse and from the voting booth to online platforms—we also remain as committed as ever to the fight for racial justice. Our work will help ensure that Black people and other communities of color have the voice, the opportunity, and the power to make the promises of our democracy real.”

Speakers will include Hewitt as well as Lawyers’ Committee Board Co-Chairs Danielle R. Holley, President of Mount Holyoke College and Michael Swartz, Partner of Schulte, Roth & Zabel, as well as immediate past Board Co-Chair Joseph K. West, Partner and Chief DEI Officer of Duane Morris LLP.

Founded in 1963, the Lawyers’ Committee stands on the front lines of the most pressing and complex civil rights problems, using litigation, public education, and other advocacy tools to address discrimination, advance and shape the law, and take defensive action when necessary to safeguard fragile gains.

The Higginbotham Leadership Awards Gala is an invitation-only annual celebration named in honor of the late A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., a celebrated statesman, civil rights champion, author, professor, historian, and federal appeals court judge. For more information about the gala and the work of the Lawyers’ Committee, please visit