Johnson is being honored for his work since leaving the NBA on promoting economic development, improved health care and educational opportunities in low-income urban neighborhoods and other "underserved communities." His foundation, the Magic Johnson Foundation, supports HIV/AIDS prevention and health care education in low-income communities.
The museum says, "a committed philanthropist, Johnson continually finds time to support worthy causes."
Also named as recipients of the award were historian John Hope Franklin and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Franklin, 92, a chronicler of civil rights history, was part of a legal team from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that helped develop the Brown v. Board of Education case. The case led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation in public schools.
Johnson-Sirleaf, 67, was inaugurated in January as president of Liberia. Known as the "iron lady," she is her country's first elected female president. She was named by Forbes Magazine last year as one of the "100 Most Powerful Women in the World."