Three civil rights workers slain in Mississippi in 1964 will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, joining actress Meryl Streep and singer Stevie Wonder among the 19 recipients of America’s highest civilian honor this year, the White House said on Monday.
The posthumous honorees include James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were killed as they participated in the “Freedom Summer” drive to register black voters in Mississippi.
Their deaths helped galvanize support for civil rights legislation and inspired the film “Mississippi Burning.”
“From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
Other recipients to be honored at a White House ceremony on Nov. 24 are the late dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, physicist Mildred Dresselhaus, Native American writer and activist Suzan Harjo, former judge and congressman Abner Mikva, former U.S. Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink, the late Mexican-American congressman Edward Roybal, actress Marlo Thomas, and economist Robert Solow.
Also to be honored is Ethel Kennedy, the widow of slain U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy. Other recipients include television newsman Tom Brokaw, novelist Isabel Allende, composer Stephen Sondheim, veteran U.S. Representative John Dingell, and Charles Sifford, who helped desegregate the U.S. professional golf tour.