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Toyota Donates $1 Million to National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Submitted by: Toyota Motor Corporation

Categories: Philanthropy & Corporate Contributions

Posted: Aug 30, 2000 – 12:00 AM EST


Aug. 30 /CSRwire/ - Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Inc. has announced a $1 million gift to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a national interactive learning center to be built in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Freedom Center will commemorate the nation's first human rights movement-a series of networks to freedom for enslaved African Americans during the period of the antebellum South. Toyota, which opened its North American manufacturing headquarters office in the Cincinnati area four years ago to support its growing number of assembly plants in the United States and Canada, joins a leadership group of companies and foundations from around the nation that have provided strong support for the Freedom Center.

Toyota's donation was announced at this month's Second International Freedom Conductor Award gala which honored South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Rosa Parks received the first International Freedom Conductor Award at a similar dinner two years ago.

The co-chairs of the Freedom Center's $90 Million capital campaign are John Pepper, Chairman of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, and Andrew Young, former Ambassador to the United Nations. In announcing Toyota's grant, John Pepper said, ''This is our first major gift from a corporation headquartered outside the United States. The gift signals the global and universal relevance of our purpose.''

Freedom Center president and CEO, Ed Rigaud added, ''I see strong ties between Toyota's concern for quality of life and cooperation between all people and the vision of the Freedom Center. Toyota's generous gift is not only a statement about quality and diversity but also that impact on families. We deeply appreciate this gift.

The initial concept for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center began in 1994 as a golden anniversary project of the Greater Cincinnati Region of the National Conference for Community and Justice (founded as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, Inc.), a human relations organization dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry and racism in America. In 1995, the Freedom Center was formally established and Mr. Rigaud was appointed as leader of the project.

The Freedom Center's National Advisory Board and honorary campaign co- chairs includes such nationally-known cultural and business leaders as Maya Angelou, Julian Bond, Bryant Gumble, Vernon Jordan, Jack Kemp and Elie Wiesel, among others.

Cincinnati was selected as the site for the Freedom Center because the city played a significant role in the history of the Underground Railroad. The Ohio River, which runs just south of Cincinnati, was the legal and symbolic dividing line between slavery in the South and freedom in the North. Scholar's estimate that over 50 percent of those who escaped through the Underground Railroad escaped through Cincinnati's ''Freedom Corridor'' between Maysville, Kentucky and Madison, Indiana.

Commenting on why Toyota's manufacturing headquarters has chosen to make a leadership gift to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, president and CEO Teruyuki Minoura explained, ''It has always been Toyota's way to give something back to the communities where we do business. Our gift is a 'thank you' to Greater Cincinnati for its warm welcome of Toyota. Additionally, by helping to highlight the greater good that occurs when diverse groups work together, we are acknowledging the increasingly important role diversity plays in our ongoing relationships with customers, employees and suppliers.''

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a national distributive museum and learning center planned to open on Cincinnati's historic Ohio riverfront by 2004. The Freedom Center will celebrate hope, courage and freedom through programs and changing exhibits related to the Underground Railroad, an informal network of escape routes for slaves seeking freedom in pre-Civil War America. For more information on the Freedom Center or its programs, visit the Web site at www.undergroundrailroad.org .

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