High Honors: Black Medal of Freedom Recipients

Stevie Wonder and others honored over the years.

Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients - On Nov. 24, President Obama awarded 19 bold, inspiring Americans with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civil honor in the U.S. that recognizes the accomplishments of artists, politicians, educators, religious leaders and military officials whose contributions shaped the international community. These honorees will take their place among other notable African-Americans who have received the award. Keep reading for a look at the 26 Black recipients of this prestigious honor throughout the years. — Britt Middleton and Patrice Peck(Photos from Left: Bettmann/Corbis, Sam Greenwood/Getty Images, Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

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Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients - On Nov. 24, President Obama awarded 19 bold, inspiring Americans with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civil honor in the U.S. that recognizes the accomplishments of artists, politicians, educators, religious leaders and military officials whose contributions shaped the international community. These honorees will take their place among other notable African-Americans who have received the award. Keep reading for a look at the 26 Black recipients of this prestigious honor throughout the years. — Britt Middleton and Patrice Peck(Photos from Left: Bettmann/Corbis, Sam Greenwood/Getty Images, Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Alvin Ailey - As the founder of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the late Alvin Ailey spearheaded groundbreaking work that explored the African-American experience and further enriched the modern dance tradition. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2014.(Photo:  ettmann/Corbis)

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Alvin Ailey - As the founder of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the late Alvin Ailey spearheaded groundbreaking work that explored the African-American experience and further enriched the modern dance tradition. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2014.(Photo:  ettmann/Corbis)

Stevie Wonder - Stevie Wonder has cemented his place in history as one of the world’s most gifted singer-songwriters. Critics praise the Grammy- and Academy Award-winning music icon’s creative mixing of genres and his mastery of a wide range of styles, themes and instruments, most notably the piano. In addition to having received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2014, Wonder is also a Kennedy Center honoree and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

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Stevie Wonder - Stevie Wonder has cemented his place in history as one of the world’s most gifted singer-songwriters. Critics praise the Grammy- and Academy Award-winning music icon’s creative mixing of genres and his mastery of a wide range of styles, themes and instruments, most notably the piano. In addition to having received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2014, Wonder is also a Kennedy Center honoree and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

Charlie Sifford - Charlie Sifford, member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2014. The award-winning former professional golfer helped to desegregate the Professional Golfers’ Association, winning six National Negro Opens and, ultimately, several PGA events along the way.(Photo: Michael Reeynolds/EPA/Landov)

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Charlie Sifford - Charlie Sifford, member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2014. The award-winning former professional golfer helped to desegregate the Professional Golfers’ Association, winning six National Negro Opens and, ultimately, several PGA events along the way.(Photo: Michael Reeynolds/EPA/Landov)

James Chaney - James Chaney posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2014. The civil rights activist and Freedom Summer participant helped to register Black voters in Mississippi during the historic event in 1964. The murders of Chaney and his fellow activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner at the outset of Freedom Summer shocked the nation.(Photo: Public Domain)

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James Chaney - James Chaney posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2014. The civil rights activist and Freedom Summer participant helped to register Black voters in Mississippi during the historic event in 1964. The murders of Chaney and his fellow activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner at the outset of Freedom Summer shocked the nation.(Photo: Public Domain)

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Ernie Banks - Considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs. His accomplishments include playing in 11 All-Star Games, hitting more than 500 home runs and becoming the first National League player to win Most Valuable Player hours in back-to-back years. The Baseball Hall of Fame honoree was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2013.(Photo: Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images)

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Ernie Banks - Considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs. His accomplishments include playing in 11 All-Star Games, hitting more than 500 home runs and becoming the first National League player to win Most Valuable Player hours in back-to-back years. The Baseball Hall of Fame honoree was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2013.(Photo: Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images)

Bayard Rustin - Civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2013. His relentless work for equality for all included being the advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and participating in one of the first Freedom Rides. The openly gay non-violence advocate also played a large role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington.(Photo: AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File)

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Bayard Rustin - Civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2013. His relentless work for equality for all included being the advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and participating in one of the first Freedom Rides. The openly gay non-violence advocate also played a large role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington.(Photo: AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File)

Cordy Tindell “C.T." Vivian - A distinguished minister, author and organizer, Cordy Tindell “C.T." Vivian was a leader in the civil rights movement and best known for his participation in Freedom Rides and nationwide sit-ins. The activist also helped to found the National Anti-Klan Network and several other civil right organizations and served as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 2012. President Obama presented Dr. Vivian with the Presidential Medial of Freedom in 2013.(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

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Cordy Tindell “C.T." Vivian - A distinguished minister, author and organizer, Cordy Tindell “C.T." Vivian was a leader in the civil rights movement and best known for his participation in Freedom Rides and nationwide sit-ins. The activist also helped to found the National Anti-Klan Network and several other civil right organizations and served as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 2012. President Obama presented Dr. Vivian with the Presidential Medial of Freedom in 2013.(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey - In 2013, Oprah Winfrey added yet another accolade to her growing list of honors when she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. The internationally successful broadcast journalist headlined The Oprah Winfrey Show, which became the highest rated talk show in America for 25 years. Winfrey has also touched the lives of many through her philanthropic work. Some of her more recent awards include the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010 and the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002.(Photo: Bizu/WENN.com)

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Oprah Winfrey - In 2013, Oprah Winfrey added yet another accolade to her growing list of honors when she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. The internationally successful broadcast journalist headlined The Oprah Winfrey Show, which became the highest rated talk show in America for 25 years. Winfrey has also touched the lives of many through her philanthropic work. Some of her more recent awards include the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010 and the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002.(Photo: Bizu/WENN.com)

Dr. Dorothy Height - In 1994, civil and women’s right activist Dr. Dorothy Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. During her 40 year tenure as president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, she specifically focused on unemployment, illiteracy and voter awareness. Dr. Height also received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.  (Photo: Stephen J. Boitano/Getty Images)

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Dr. Dorothy Height - In 1994, civil and women’s right activist Dr. Dorothy Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. During her 40 year tenure as president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, she specifically focused on unemployment, illiteracy and voter awareness. Dr. Height also received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.  (Photo: Stephen J. Boitano/Getty Images)

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Congressman John Lewis - An American hero and giant of the civil rights movement, Congressman John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011.(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Congressman John Lewis - An American hero and giant of the civil rights movement, Congressman John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011.(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Nelson Mandela - President George Bush awarded former South African president and apartheid freedom fighter Nelson Mandela the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.(Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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Nelson Mandela - President George Bush awarded former South African president and apartheid freedom fighter Nelson Mandela the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.(Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Desmond Tutu - Widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience,” Anglican Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu was a leading anti-apartheid activist in his mother country. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2009.(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Desmond Tutu - Widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience,” Anglican Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu was a leading anti-apartheid activist in his mother country. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2009.(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Toni Morrison - Toni Morrison, winner of a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize and a member of France’s Legion of Honor, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. (Photo: Francois Durand/Getty Images)

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Toni Morrison - Toni Morrison, winner of a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize and a member of France’s Legion of Honor, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. (Photo: Francois Durand/Getty Images)

Sidney Poitier - The Academy Award-winning actor (the second African-American to do so) and diplomat received the award from President Obama in 2009.(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Sidney Poitier - The Academy Award-winning actor (the second African-American to do so) and diplomat received the award from President Obama in 2009.(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Dr. Maya Angelou - The celebrated author, whose works include I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings among numerous essays, books of poetry and plays, was honored with the award by Obama in 2011.(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Dr. Maya Angelou - The celebrated author, whose works include I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings among numerous essays, books of poetry and plays, was honored with the award by Obama in 2011.(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Count Basie - The jazz pianist and bandleader carved a name for himself in the 1920s and '30s with his signature “jumping” swing beat, best observed in his hit "One O'Clock Jump.” Basie, who died at the age of 79 on April 26, 1984, was presented the award posthumously in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan.(Photo: Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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Count Basie - The jazz pianist and bandleader carved a name for himself in the 1920s and '30s with his signature “jumping” swing beat, best observed in his hit "One O'Clock Jump.” Basie, who died at the age of 79 on April 26, 1984, was presented the award posthumously in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan.(Photo: Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Duke Ellington - Hailed by many as one of the greatest composers in the history of music, the jazz legend added Medal of Freedom recipient to his long list of accolades in 1969 when he was awarded by President Richard Nixon.(Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

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Duke Ellington - Hailed by many as one of the greatest composers in the history of music, the jazz legend added Medal of Freedom recipient to his long list of accolades in 1969 when he was awarded by President Richard Nixon.(Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

B.B. King - In 2006, President George W. Bush honored the legendary blues guitarist with the award. (Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)

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B.B. King - In 2006, President George W. Bush honored the legendary blues guitarist with the award. (Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Leontyne Price - The opera singer, whose powerful soprano in her performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore in 1961 wowed audiences at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City (she was also the first African-American to open a season at the historic theatre), was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

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Leontyne Price - The opera singer, whose powerful soprano in her performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore in 1961 wowed audiences at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City (she was also the first African-American to open a season at the historic theatre), was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

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Aretha Franklin - The Queen of Soul was awarded the fitting presidential honor by President George W. Bush in 2005.(Photo: Douglas A. Sonders/Getty Images)

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Aretha Franklin - The Queen of Soul was awarded the fitting presidential honor by President George W. Bush in 2005.(Photo: Douglas A. Sonders/Getty Images)

Ella Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald, whose signature “scat” style earned her the nickname “The First Lady of Jazz,” was honored with the award by President H.W. Bush in 1992.(Photo: John Downing/Express/Getty Images)

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Ella Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald, whose signature “scat” style earned her the nickname “The First Lady of Jazz,” was honored with the award by President H.W. Bush in 1992.(Photo: John Downing/Express/Getty Images)

Muhammad Ali - Ali, known most simply as “The Greatest” and whose humanitarian work has earned many other accolades, received the presidential award from George W. Bush in 2005.(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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Muhammad Ali - Ali, known most simply as “The Greatest” and whose humanitarian work has earned many other accolades, received the presidential award from George W. Bush in 2005.(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Jesse Owens - Jesse Owens, the track and field star who won a historic four gold medals in at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, won the prestigious award in 1976, awarded by President Gerald Ford. (Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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Jesse Owens - Jesse Owens, the track and field star who won a historic four gold medals in at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, won the prestigious award in 1976, awarded by President Gerald Ford. (Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Jackie Robinson - The Brooklyn Dodgers player famously broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. He passed away on October 24, 1972, but was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by Reagan in 1984.(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Jackie Robinson - The Brooklyn Dodgers player famously broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. He passed away on October 24, 1972, but was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by Reagan in 1984.(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Rev. Jesse Jackson - Jackson, a champion for civil rights and former presidential candidate, was presented the award by President Bill Clinton in 2000.  (Photo: Reuters)

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Rev. Jesse Jackson - Jackson, a champion for civil rights and former presidential candidate, was presented the award by President Bill Clinton in 2000. (Photo: Reuters)

Colin Powell - The former United States secretary of state and retired U.S. Army general was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom not once, but twice. First by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 and for the second time by Clinton in 1993.(Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

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Colin Powell - The former United States secretary of state and retired U.S. Army general was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom not once, but twice. First by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 and for the second time by Clinton in 1993.(Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)