The Spingarn Medal is awarded annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for an outstanding achievement by an African American. The award was created in 1914 by Joel Elias Spingarn, chairman of the board of directors of the NAACP.[1] It was first awarded to biologist Ernest E. Just in 1915, and has been given most years thereafter.

At its annual convention, the NAACP presents the award after deciding from open nominations. Should the organization end, it would be managed by Howard or Fisk Universities.[1] The gold medal is valued at $100, and Spingarn left $20,000 (equivalent to $438,000 in 2023) in his will for the NAACP to continue giving it indefinitely.[2]

List of recipients

Year Picture Name Rationale
1915   Ernest E. Just "Head of Physiology, Howard University Medical School for research in biology."
1916   Charles Young "Services in organizing the Liberian Constabulary and roads in the Republic of Liberia."
1917   Harry T. Burleigh "Excellence in the field of creative music."
1918   William Stanley Braithwaite "Distinguished achievements in literature."
1919   Archibald H. Grimké "U.S. Consul in Santo Domingo; President of American Negro Academy; for seventy years of distinguished service to his race and country."
1920   William Edward Burghardt (W. E. B.) DuBois "Author, Editor Crisis Magazine; founding and calling of Pan-African Congress."
1921   Charles S. Gilpin "Notable performance in the title role of The Emperor Jones and for excellence as an actor."
1922   Mary B. Talbert "Former President of the National Association of Colored Women and for continued service to women of color."
1923   George Washington Carver "Head of Department of Research and Director of the Experiment Station of Tuskegee Inst. For researching Agricultural Chemistry."
1924   Roland Hayes "Singer; for artistry through interpreting Negro folk song; soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra."
1925   James Weldon Johnson "Former U.S. Consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua; former editor and secretary of NAACP."
1926   Carter G. Woodson "Historian and Founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History; editor, Negro Orators and Their Orations for his outstanding work as an historian."
1927   Anthony Overton "President of Victory Life Insurance Company, the first black company certified by the state of New York."
1928   Charles W. Chesnutt "Author; for his pioneer work as a literary artist, depicting the life and struggle of Americans of Negro descent."
1929   Mordecai Wyatt Johnson "President of Howard University. For distinguished leadership as first black president."
1930   Henry Hunt "Principal of the Fort Valley High and Industrial School, Fort Valley, GA. For twenty-five years of service in the education of black students."
1931 Richard Berry Harrison "For his fine and reverent characterization of the Lord in Marc Connelly's Play – The Green Pastures."
1932   Robert Russa Moton "Principal of the Tuskegee Institute. For excellent leadership and service in the field of education."
1933   Max Yergan "American Y.M.C.A. Secretary; missionary of intelligence, tact and self-sacrifice. For the excellence of his work in Africa."
1934   William Taylor Burwell Williams "Dean of Tuskegee Institute, long service as field agent of the Slater and Jeanes Funds and the General Education Board."
1935   Mary McLeod Bethune "Founder and President of Bethune Cookman College. For outstanding leadership and service to education."
1936   John Hope
(awarded posthumously)
"President of Atlanta University; distinguished leader of his race."
1937   Walter White "Executive Secretary of NAACP. For his personal investigation of more than forty-one lynchings."
1938 No award given
1939   Marian Anderson "Chosen for her special achievement in music."
1940 Louis T. Wright "Surgeon; chosen for his contribution to the healing of mankind and for his courageous position in the face of bitter attack."
1941   Richard Wright "Author; Uncle Tom's Children and Native Son. For his outstanding contributions to literature."
1942   A. Philip Randolph "International President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. For his role in securing the presidential order to establish the FEPC in 1941."
1943   William H. Hastie "Jurist and Educator; chosen for his distinguished career as a jurist and uncompromising champion of equal justice."
1944   Charles Drew "Scientist; chosen for his outstanding work in blood plasma; research led to establishment of blood plasma bank."
1945   Paul Robeson "Singer and Actor chosen for distinguished achievement in the theatre and concert stage."
1946   Thurgood Marshall "Special Counsel for NAACP. For distinguished service as a lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court."
1947 Dr. Percy Julian "Research Chemist chosen for many important discoveries that have saved many lives."
1948   Channing H. Tobias "In recognition of his consistent role as a defender of fundamental American liberties."
1949   Ralph J. Bunche "International civil servant; acting UN mediator in Palestine. For singular service to the United Nations."
1950 Charles Hamilton Houston "Chairman, NAACP Legal Committee and stalwart defender of democracy."
1951 Mabel Keaton Staupers "Leader of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses."
1952 Harry T. Moore "NAACP leader in the state of Florida and a martyr in the crusade for freedom."
1953   Paul R. Williams "Distinguished architect, for his pioneer contributions as a creative designer of livable, attractive modern dwellings."
1954 Theodore K. Lawless "Physician, educator and philanthropist. For pioneering achievements in dermatology."
1955 Carl J. Murphy "Dedicated editor, publisher and farsighted civic leader."
1956   Jack Roosevelt Robinson "Brilliant and versatile athlete; for superb sportsmanship and for his singular role in athletics."
1957   Martin Luther King, Jr. "Dedicated and selfless clergyman; for leadership role in the Montgomery bus protest movement."
1958 Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine "For their pioneer role in upholding the basic ideals of American democracy in the face of continuing harassment and constant threats of bodily injury."
1959   Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington "Composer and orchestra leader. For outstanding and unique musical achievements."
1960   Langston Hughes "Poet, author and playwright."
1961 Kenneth B. Clark "Professor of Psychology at the College of the City of New York; founder/director of the Northside Center for Child Development. For his dedicated service and inspired research in the field of psychology."
1962   Robert C. Weaver "Administrator, Housing and Home Finance Agency; for his long years of dedicated public service at municipal, state and federal levels."
1963   Medgar Wiley Evers "NAACP field secretary for the state of Mississippi. For his dedication and steadfast courage in the face of continued death threats."
1964   Roy Wilkins "Executive Director, NAACP. For his leadership, integrity and his dedicated service."
1965   Leontyne Price "Metropolitan Opera star, in recognition of her divinely inspired talent."
1966 John H. Johnson "Founder/President of the Johnson Publishing Company of Chicago."
1967   Edward W. Brooke, III "First African American to win popular election to the United States Senate since Reconstruction."
1968   Sammy Davis, Jr. "Broadway/Hollywood star and civil rights activist."
1969   Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. "Director, Washington Bureau, NAACP and civil rights lobbyist. For his pivotal role in the enactment of civil rights legislation."
1970 Jacob Lawrence "Artist, teacher and humanitarian."
1971 Leon Howard Sullivan "Clergyman, activist and prophet."
1972   Gordon Parks "In recognition of his unique creativity, as exemplified by his outstanding achievements as photographer, writer, film maker and composer."
1973 Wilson C. Riles "Educator, in recognition of the stature he has attained as a national leader in the field of education."
1974   Damon J. Keith "Jurist; in tribute to his steadfast defense of constitutional principles."
1975 No award given
1976   Hank Aaron "Athlete, in recognition of his singular achievement in the sport which symbolizes America – baseball; his impressive home run record."
1977[a]   Alvin Ailey "Innovative dancer, choreographer and artistic director."
  Alex Haley "Author, biographer and lecturer; exhaustive research and literary skill combined in Roots."
1978 No award given
1979[a]   Andrew Young "Minister plenipotentiary and extraordinary United States Ambassador to the United Nations."
  Rosa L. Parks "In recognition to the quiet courage and determination exemplified when she refused to surrender her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus."
1980 Rayford W. Logan "Educator, historian, author for his prodigious efforts to set before the world the black American's continuing struggle against oppression."
1981   Coleman Alexander Young "Mayor, City of Detroit; public servant, labor leader."
1982   Benjamin Elijah Mays "Educator, theologian and humanitarian."
1983   Lena Horne "Artist humanitarian and living symbol of excellence."
1984 No award given
1985[a]   Tom Bradley "Government executive, public servant, humanist; Mayor of Los Angeles for 20 years."
  Bill Cosby "Humorist, artist, educator, family man and humanitarian."
1986 Benjamin Lawson Hooks "Executive Director, NAACP. In tribute to his precedent-setting accomplishments."
1987 Percy Ellis Sutton "Public servant, businessman, community leader."
1988 Frederick Douglass Patterson "Educator, doctor of veterinary medicine, visionary and humanitarian."
1989   Jesse Louis Jackson "Clergyman, political leader, civil rights activist; first American of African descent to become a major presidential candidate."
1990   Lawrence Douglas Wilder "Governor, public servant, attorney and visionary in tribute to an extraordinary life of accomplishment."
1991   Colin L. Powell "General of the U.S. Army, 12th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Department of Defense."
1992   Barbara Jordan "Lawyer, educator, political leader and stateswoman."
1993   Dorothy Irene Height "National Council of Negro Women; National YWCA; The Center for Radical Justice; President, Delta Sigma Theta sorority. For extraordinary leadership in advancing women’s rights."
1994   Maya Angelou "Poet, author, actress, playwright, producer, educator and historian."
1995   John Hope Franklin "Historian, scholar and educator; in recognition of an unrelenting quest for truth and the enlightenment of Western Civilization."
1996   A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. "Jurist, Scholar, teacher and humanitarian; in honor of a distinguished jurist who emerged a giant of jurisprudence during a three-decade tenure as the nation’s longest serving active Federal Judge."
1997 Carl T. Rowan "Journalist, publicist, civic leader and public servant."
1998   Myrlie Evers-Williams "Civil rights activist, risk-taker, mother, true believer."
1999   Earl G. Graves, Sr. "Founder, Black Enterprise Magazine; Businessman, publisher, educator, advocate, entrepreneur, family man."
2000   Oprah Winfrey "Actress, producer, educator, publisher and humanitarian."
2001   Vernon E. Jordan "Lawyer, Advisor to Presidents, Champion of Civil Rights and Human Rights, Exemplar and True Believer."
2002   John Lewis "Public servant, protector of civil and human rights, community leader and inspirer of youth."
2003   Constance Baker Motley "Civil rights pioneer, jurist, public official, for her commitment and pursuit of the goal of equal opportunity and justice for all Americans."
2004   Robert L. Carter "Attorney, educator, federal judge and guardian of civil rights; for his extraordinary achievement of winning twenty-one cases argued before the Supreme Court."
2005   Oliver W. Hill "For his key role in the United States Supreme Court Case, Brown v. Board; for his determined, quiet and persistent pursuit of justice."
2006   Benjamin S. Carson, Sr. "In tribute to a lifetime of growth and singular achievement, from the bottom of his fifth grade class, to become the youngest ever Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery in the United States."
2007   John Conyers, Jr. "Guardian of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, consummate legislator and public servant."
2008   Ruby Dee "Actress, poet, playwright and civil rights activist"
2009   Julian Bond "Former Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors and legendary civil rights activist"
2010   Cicely Tyson "Actress and civil rights activist"
2011   Frankie Muse Freeman "Attorney and civil rights activist."
2012   Harry Belafonte "Singer, song writer, actor and social activist."
2013   Jessye Norman "Opera singer, Grammy Award winner."
2014   Quincy Jones "Composer, Producer, Grammy Award winner."
2015   Sidney Poitier "Actor and Social activist, Oscar Winner."
2016   Nathaniel R. Jones "Lawyer, Jurist, Academic and Public Servant"
2018   Willie L. Brown[3] Former mayor of San Francisco and former speaker of the California Assembly
2019   Patrick Gaspard[4] a lifelong community activist, a former American diplomat, and the current president of the Center for American Progress
2021   Cato T. Laurencin[5] Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor at the University of Connecticut

NAACP recognizes Dr. Laurencin's seminal and singular accomplishments in tissue regeneration, biomaterials science, nanotechnology, and regenerative engineering, a field he founded. His exceptional career has made him the foremost engineer-physician-scientist in the world. His breakthrough achievements have resulted in transformative advances in improving human life. His fundamental contributions to materials science and engineering include introducing nanotechnology into the biomaterials field for regeneration.

2022   Jim Clyburn[6] House Majority Whip
2023 Hazel Dukes[7] 8th National President of the NAACP


  1. ^ a b c Two separate medals were awarded this year.
Specific references
  1. ^ a b "Spingarn Medal". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  2. ^ "An award of excellence, the Spingarn Medal". African American Registry. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  3. ^ "Willie L. Brown to receive NAACP's prestigious Spingarn Medal". June 14, 2018. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  4. ^ "PATRICK GASPARD TO RECEIVE PRESTIGIOUS NAACP SPINGARN MEDAL". June 17, 2019. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  5. ^ "NAACP to Present Prestigious Spingarn Medal to World-Renowned Engineer-Physician-Scientist, Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. at 112th Annual Convention". July 6, 2021. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  6. ^ Doyle, Christopher (July 20, 2022). "Congressman Clyburn receives NAACP award as Atlantic City convention ends". The Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  7. ^ Boyd, Herb (August 10, 2023). "Hazel N. Dukes is recipient of NAACP's 108th Spingarn Medal".
General references