The award -- which was first presented last year to Oprah Winfrey -- is named for entertainment legend Bob Hope, who died at 100 in July. Academy Chairman Bryce Zabel said Cosby would receive the honor during the Emmy ceremonies on Sept. 21 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
"With Bob Hope's passing from the scene so recently, it's more important than ever to see the torch passed to others who embody his commitment to good works," said Zabel. "Bill Cosby, like Hope, has not only made Americans laugh over a long career, but he has also used his stardom to shine a light on strengthening the family values which make our country great. He's the right man at the right time to receive this year's award."
The Bob Hope Humanitarian Award was established in recognition of Hope's "pioneer status in the industry and of his many humanitarian efforts over a long and fulfilling career."
Cosby become a star in the 1960s, when his standup comedy made him a favorite in clubs and on network TV variety shows. From 1965-68, he co-starred with Robert Culp in the drama series "I Spy" -- earning Emmy Awards for best actor in a drama series in each of the show's three seasons on NBC.
His 1969 TV special, "The Bill Cosby Special," won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety or Musical Program.
His long-running half-hour comedy "The Cosby Show" earned 29 Emmy nominations during its eight-year run on NBC (1984-92), winning six times -- including Outstanding Comedy Series in 1985. The show -- along with its spinoff "A Different World" -- was credited with showing American TV audiences a new way of looking at black family life.
Cosby received the Kennedy Center Honor in 1998 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in July 2002. He was inducted into the Television Academy's Hall of Fame in 1992.
Long after he was an established star, Cosby demonstrated a commitment to higher eduction by returning to school and earning a masters degree and a doctorate in education. He has become a hugely popular commencement speaker, largely owing to his knack for making college graduates laugh even as he warns them of the pitfalls they face as they strike out on their own.
Cosby and his wife Camille have made substantial gifts to institutions of higher education, most notably to predominantly black schools such as Spelman College in Atlanta.
After their son Ennis was shot and killed in Los Angeles in 1997, Cosby established the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation. He also established the Franklin & Marshall College Scholarship, which supports a Franklin & Marshall student who goes on to study education at Columbia University Teachers College, Ennis Cosby's alma mater.
Cosby currently produces the animated TV series "Little Bill," based on his popular series of children's books. A new animated TV series based on his 1996 best-selling book "Fatherhood" is scheduled to debut on Nick at Nite next January. His new book "I Am What I Ate ... And I'm Frightened" is scheduled to be published next month.
Ray Romano, the Emmy-winning star of the CBS hit comedy "Everybody Loves Raymond," will present the award to Cosby.
The 55th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards will be televised live by the Fox TV network.