The label launched artists including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. The success of its pop-soul "Motown Sound" broke racial barriers in popular culture and the music business.
Gordy will accept the award at a November 19 black-tie gala at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.
The Marian Anderson Award is named for the celebrated contralto and Philadelphia native, who in 1955 was the first black soloist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She died in 1993 at age 96.
Previous winners include James Earl Jones, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Gere.