Skip to Content

Michelle Obama and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp were among 12 recipients of prestigious annual NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards

Minneapolis - July 01, 2018 -

First Lady Michelle Obama and the Know Your Rights Camp, founded by professional quarterback and racial and social justice advocate Colin Kaepernick, were among the dozen recipients of the prestigious National Education Association Human and Civil Rights Awards.

The merger of the National Education Association and the American Teachers Association in 1966 produced the annual NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards. Since the merger, NEA has recognized and honored educators, individuals, community partners, and organizations that are advancing the mantle for human and civil rights.

"The human and civil rights champions we honor tonight are the epitome of the fierce urgency of now that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke about in his ‘I have a Dream speech,’" said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. "Through their deeds and actions, they have demonstrated remarkable courage and conviction to stand up for racial and social justice. They have shown an unrelenting resolve and ferocity to make a real difference for public education, students and our nation’s future. They are shining examples of social justice activism, fighting against injustices every day, and making sure that our great nation lives up to its promise."

To view the bios and accomplishments of the 2018 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards recipients, please click here.

North Carolina Educator Rodney Ellis

NEA posthumously recognized North Carolina educator Rodney Ellis with its César Chávez Accion Y Compromiso Human and Civil Rights Award for opening doors for his students and making sure schools have the resources they deserve no matter their ZIP code. Watch a tribute video of Rodney Ellis here.

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)

NEA recognized APALA with its Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award for its work to advance workers’ rights. See a video of APALA in action here.

Ohio Educator Lynette Jimenez

Because of her unbending commitment to her students in Twinsburg, Ohio, and to students a world away in El Salvador, NEA bestowed upon Lynette Jimenez its highest honor, the George I. Sanchez Award. Watch a video of Jimenez in action here.

California Educator Dr. Cecil Canton

NEA recognized Dr. Cecil Canton with its H. Councill Trenholm Memorial Award for working to advance racial and social justice. Watch a video of Canton in action here.

Dr. L.G. Bunch III

NEA recognized Founding Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Dr. L.G. Bunch III, for creating a place for America to honor and celebrate the African-American story with its Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Award. See a video of Bunch in action here.

Michelle Obama

NEA honored Michelle Obama with its Mary Hatwood Futrell Award for transforming and redefining the role of First Lady of the United States by intentionally focusing her attention on advancing opportunities for women and girls. See a video of Michelle Obama in action here.

Michael Harman of Utah

NEA bestowed upon Michael Harman its Reg Weaver Human and Civil Rights Award for working to end homelessness. To see Harman in action, click here.

Jitu Brown of Illinois

NEA honored community activist Jitu Brown with its Rosa Parks Memorial Award for demanding accountability from elected officials and seeking justice for the voiceless. To see Jitu Brown in action, click here.

The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association

NEA honored the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association with its Rosena J. Willis Memorial Award for standing up for students and educators amidst a barrage of political attacks aimed at silencing their voices. To see MTEA in action, click here.

Vermont’s Muslim Girls Making Change

NEA recognized Vermont’s Muslim Girls Making Change with its SuAnne Big Crow Memorial Award for confronting racism and Islamophobia. See a video of MGMC in action here.

LGBTQ activist Chris Sgro

NEA honored Chris Sgro for his tireless dedication and many years of work to expand the rights of LGBTQ people with its 2018 Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights. Watch a video of Sgro in action here.

Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp

Former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick received NEA’s highest honor, the NEA President’s Award, for his work to fight racial oppression through education and social justice activism with his Know Your Rights Camp.

Follow the conversation on Twitter #NEARA2018 #EdJustice2018 @NEAMedia


The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez, NEA Communications, 202-822-7823,

Meet the 2018 HCR Award Recipients


NEA honors first lady Michelle Obama with human and civil rights award


NEA recognizes Dr. Cecil Canton for work to advance racial and social justice


Ohio English teacher Lynnette Jimenez earns NEA’s highest honor


NEA recognizes Founding Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Dr. L.G. Bunch III


NEA recognizes Vermont’s Muslim Girls Making Change for confronting racism