Academy President Frank Pierson announced Wednesday that the award is being given to Poitier "for his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen, and for representing the motion picture industry with dignity, style and intelligence throughout the world.
"When the academy honors Poitier, it honors itself even more," Pierson concluded.
In a career that spans more than half a century, Poitier has been nominated for two leading actor awards, once in 1958 for his role in The Defiant Ones and again in 1963 for Lillies of the Field for which he won on Oscar.
Honorary Awards are given for "exceptional distinction in the making of motion pictures or for outstanding service to the Academy." Previous recipients include Paul Newman, Sophia Loren, James Stewart and Henry Fonda.
Poitier's Honorary Award will be presented at the 74th Academy Awards on March 24 at the Kodak Theatre.