MEMPHIS, Tenn-- For thousands of students, it was a day of learning real life lessons in civil rights from honorees such as Ruby Bridges-Hall.
Inside Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ, students interacted with leaders in the ongoing struggle for civil and human rights.
Adrian Johnson was here with his 18-month-old daughter to be inspired about race relations.
"The best outcome for her (daughter) is for us to be united, for black and white to be on the same page," Johnson said.
That page this year honored three pioneers.
Bridges-Hall's lifetime of activism began in 1960 when she was a six-year-old student who integrated New Orleans public schools.
Joan Mulholland was a student activist participating in freedom rides and lunch counter sit-ins.
Ava DuVernay is the director of the critically acclaimed civil rights film "Selma."
Thursday on Live at 9, Freedom Awards emcee and noted author and historian Michael Eric Dyson talked about the importance of the movement and being in Memphis.
"It's no question Dr. King's death is not just something that occurred back then; it still means something now. That's why these Freedom Awards are extremely important," Dyson said.
Organizers hoped to expose and encourage today's youth to become tomorrow's keepers of the dream much like this year's honorees.
"The images of these strong women signifies to us, even though we've got a lot, progress still needs to be made. We are in good hands because of their commitment to truth," Dyson said.
The Freedom Awards Gala is scheduled for Thursday night at the Cannon Center.
Past honorees have included Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela just to name a few.