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Obama speaks during the Presidential Medal of Freedom presentation on May 29, 2012 at the White House in Washington, DC (AFP/File, Mandel Ngan)

Today, the White House has announced that President Barack Obama will award 16 recipients with the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. Of that number, four African-Americans have been selected as well.

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey, civil rights leader Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian, late  Martin Luther King, Jr. adviser Bayard Rustin, and Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks will be awarded with the medals. The group joins a distinguished list of past winners such as Jackie Robinson, Sidney Poitier, Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, and Dorothy Height among others.

Similar to the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal Of Freedom is the highest award given to civilians in the United States. The medal serves to recognize the significant cultural achievements by the award winners, spanning areas of arts, entertainment, world peace endeavors, human rights and other arenas.

During several instances during his term, President Obama has awarded the honor to public figures such as Stephen Hawking, Harvey Milk, Warren Buffet and also George H.W. Bush. According to the Senate website, this will be the sixth such ceremony for Mr. Obama.

To see a list of past winners, visit this link.

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