The Associated Press reported other recipients include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the first woman to hold the nation's top diplomatic post; John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth; and musician Bob Dylan.
In a statement, US President Barack Obama said "They've challenged us, they've inspired us and they've made the world a better place."
Morrison has received a Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Nobel Prize in literature.
Morrison spoke with "CBS This Morning" co-host Charlie Rose in a pre-taped interview about her tenth novel "Home."
Her latest novel, her shortest yet, is less than 150 pages, but has been called one of her best, according to the A.V. Club website.
It is a story of Korean War veteran Frank Money's desperate journey to save his younger sister set in the 1950s.
"He has to go back through the country which is really like another battle field for him," Morrison told CBS. "And he is ripping away, or I am, that glorious period that we think of now as the '50s. And I'm just looking underneath the sunshine to find out what the '50s were really and truly like."
Morrison said writing is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.
But called writing books, "Eden" adding "it's so free, and it has a danger that I can control. You know the danger of making a mistake, doing it wrong. But I can control that, and its mine. And nobody tells me what to do."
Among the other honorees:
— John Doar, civil rights attorney.
— William Foege, physician who led the campaign to eradicate smallpox.
— Gordon Hirabayashi, openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
— Dolores Huerta, civil rights workers and women's advocate.
— Jan Karski, officer in the Polish Underground during World War II and one of the first people to provide accounts of the Holocaust to the world.
— Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.
— Shimon Peres, Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
— John Paul Stevens, former Supreme Court Justice.
— Pat Summitt, former women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee.