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Arthur Barnette Spingarn (1878–1971) was a European American leader in the fight for civil rights for African Americans.


Early lifeEdit

He was born into a well-to-do Jewish family. His older brother was the educator Joel Elias Spingarn, and his nephew was Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Stephen J. Spingarn.

He graduated from Columbia College in 1897[1] and from Columbia Law School in 1899.[2]


Spingarn was one of the few white Americans who decided in the 1900s decade to support the radical demands for racial justice being voiced by W. E. B. Du Bois, in contrast to the gradualist views of Booker T. Washington. He served as head of the legal committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was one of its vice presidents from 1911.

He interrupted his legal career to serve for several years as a United States Army captain in the Sanitary Corps during World War I and protested racial discrimination treatment of African Americans in the US military. He was very interested in furthering the cause of civil rights and improving the condition of black Americans.[3] He succeeded his brother, Joel, as president of the NAACP in 1940 when the legal arm of the organization was spun off into the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and served as the NAACP's president until 1965.


Spingarn avidly amassed collections. One of them was of books, newspapers, and manuscripts on the black American experience worldwide that was "unique in its depth, breadth, and quality."[4] He sold it to Howard University, where it was incorporated into the renamed Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, the largest and most valuable research library in America for the study of black life and history.

His other collections were sold at auction in 1966.[5]

Death and legacyEdit

He died at home in New York City on December 1, 1971. At his memorial service, he was eulogized by Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins, executive director of the NAACP. Buell C. Gallagher, retired president of the City College of New York, called him "the rallying center of the aggressive forward movement" of the NAACP.[6]


  • Laws Relating to Sex Morality in New York City (1915, revised 1926)
  • Legal and Protective Measures (1950), co-authored with Jacob A. Goldberg


  1. ^ "Columbia's Commencement". The New York Times. 1897-06-06.
  2. ^ "470 Columbia Graduates". The New York Times. 1899-06-08.
  3. ^ "Arthur Barnett Spingarn bio". March 28, 1878. Archived from the original on September 14, 2016. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  4. ^ "Moorland-Spingarn Research Center," Library Quarterly, vol. 58, no. 2, 143-163 (1988).
  5. ^ Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc., Modern Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors, Sculptures: A Group of Works by Contemporary Italian Artists / Various Owners, Including Arthur B. Spingarn, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Sanders, Warner Leroy: Public Auction, March 10, 1966
  6. ^ "Spingarn's Work Hailed at Rites". The New York Times. 1971-12-06. Retrieved 2010-01-25.


External linksEdit