Joan Baez: A Lifetime of Human Rights Advocacy

March 14, 2011

In 1973, Joan Baez signs Amnesty International's anti-torture petition in London.

Amnesty International turns 50 this year, and closely linked to Amnesty’s legacy of championing human rights is that of folk legend Joan Baez.

Baez was an active supporter of Amnesty from the start, stuffing envelopes at our first home office in San Francisco– not coincidentally, where this year’s Annual General Meeting is being held. This Friday, as part of our anniversary AGM,  Joan Baez will be honored for a lifetime of human rights solidarity and advocacy.

Her receiving the award also marks an exciting beginning, as it will establish the Amnesty International Joan Baez Award for Outstanding, Inspirational Service in the Global Fight for Human Rights. The award will be given to artists – working in music, film, fine arts or other media – who similarly contribute to the advancement of human rights.

Baez will be presented with the first award in recognition of her historic, ground-breaking and courageous human rights work with Amnesty International and beyond, and the inspiration she has given activists around the world. In the early 1970’s, she devoted a full year to help establish Amnesty International chapters in the San Francisco bay area. Among her innumerable, diverse contributions to Amnesty, she has headlined anti-death penalty rallies and traveled to New York and Paris for the organization’s first Campaign to Abolish Torture.

Baez has immersed herself in human rights activism throughout her life, including marching for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fighting for the rights of California’s migrant farm workers alongside César Chávez, supporting gay and lesbian rights and traveling around the world to participate in human rights missions. Her high profile has not made her immune to the risks that human rights defenders the world over undertake; she received death threats while touring Brazil, Argentina and Chile in the early ‘80s.

If you can’t be at the AGM to celebrate Baez’ lifetime of human rights activism, you can still follow her example by taking action at our Online Action Center!