James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner will be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the ceremony at the White House on Nov. 24.
The three young men, who had been working to register Black voters in Mississippi, went to investigate the burning of a Black church. They were arrested by police and then released to the Ku Klux Klan after dark. The Klansmen beat and murdered them. Their bodies were found six weeks later.
“From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept American the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made more extraordinary contributions to our country and the world,” President Obama said in a statement.
Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder and 14 other Americans will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ethel Kennedy, Tom Brokaw, novelist Isabel Allende, composer Stephen Sondheim, veteran U.S. Representative John Dingell and Charles Sifford, who helped desegregate golf, will be honored.
The late 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 will receive the award as well.