Published January 13, 2015
Oprah Winfrey (search) and Paul Rusesabagina (search), whose heroism in the face of genocide inspired the movie "Hotel Rwanda," were announced Thursday as recipients of the National Civil Rights Museum's top honors.
The museum, built around the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. (search) was assassinated in 1968, said Winfrey and Rusesabagina will receive its 2005 Freedom Awards.
Winfrey, who runs a media company that includes her television show, is being recognized for working to improve the lives of poor children in Africa and helping create a U.S. database of convicted child abusers.
She will receive the museum's National Freedom Award in November. Past recipients include King's widow, Coretta Scott King, and former Presidents Clinton and Carter.
Rusesabagina will receive the International Freedom Award, which also has been given to Nelson Mandela and Bono.
The museum said a new Lifetime Achievement Award for civil rights activism will be given to actress Ruby Dee and her late husband, Ossie Davis.
None of the recipients were at the announcement.
Rusesabagina was managing a Belgian hotel in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, when civil war broke out in 1994 between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people were killed, most of them Tutsis. He hid more than 1,200 people in the hotel for over three months to prevent their slaughter by Hutu militias.
Museum Director Beverly Robertson described Winfrey as "a great humanitarian" who has used her Oprah Winfrey Foundation to provide scholarships and grants to help educate poor children in the United States and abroad.
"She has provided resources and money to build schools for at least 50,000 children in South Africa," Robertson said. "That is phenomenal. She doesn't have to do that."
The museum said it also was honoring Winfrey for her outspoken advocacy of the 1993 National Child Protection Act.