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The Spingarn Medal is awarded annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for 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 in his will for the NAACP to continue giving it indefinitely.[2]

List of recipientsEdit

Year Picture Name Rationale
1915   Just, Ernest EverettProfessor Ernest E. Just "Head of Physiology, Howard University Medical School for research in biology."
1916   Young, CharlesMajor Charles Young "Services in organizing the Liberian Constabulary and roads in the Republic of Liberia."
1917   Burleigh, Harry T.Harry T. Burleigh "Excellence in the field of creative music."
1918   Braithwaite, William StanleyWilliam Stanley Braithwaite "Distinguished achievements in literature."
1919   Grimké, Archibald H.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   DuBois, William Edwards Burghardt (W. E. B.)William Edwards Burghardt (W. E. B.) DuBois "Author, Editor Crisis Magazine; founding and calling of Pan-African Congress."
1921   Gilpin, Charles S.Charles S. Gilpin "Notable performance in the title role of The Emperor Jones and for excellence as an actor."
1922   Talbert, Mary B.Mary B. Talbert "Former President of the National Association of Colored Women and for continued service to women of color."
1923   Carver, George WashingtonGeorge Washington Carver "Head of Department of Research and Director of the Experiment Station of Tuskegee Inst. For researching Agricultural Chemistry."
1924   Hayes, RolandRoland Hayes "Singer; for artistry through interpreting Negro folk song; soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra."
1925   Johnson, James WeldonJames Weldon Johnson "Former U.S. Consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua; former editor and secretary of NAACP."
1926   Woodson, Carter G.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 Overton, AnthonyAnthony Overton "President of Victory Life Insurance Company, the first black company certified by the state of New York."
1928   Chesnutt, Charles W.Charles W. Chesnutt "Author; for his pioneer work as a literary artist, depicting the life and struggle of Americans of Negro descent."
1929   Johnson, Mordecai WyattMordecai Wyatt Johnson "President of Howard University. For distinguished leadership as first black president."
1930   Hunt, HenryHenry 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 Harrison, Richard BerryRichard Berry Harrison "For his fine and reverent characterization of the Lord in Marc Connelly's Play – The Green Pastures."
1932   Moton, Robert RussaRobert Russa Moton "Principal of the Tuskegee Institute. For excellent leadership and service in the field of education."
1933   Yergan, MaxMax Yergan "American Y.M.C.A. Secretary; missionary of intelligence, tact and self-sacrifice. For the excellence of his work in Africa."
1934 Williams, William Taylor BurwellWilliam Taylor Burwell Williams "Dean of Tuskegee Institute, long service as field agent of the Slater and Jeanes Funds and the General Education Board."
1935   Bethune, Mary McLeodMary 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   White, WalterWalter White "Executive Secretary of NAACP. For his personal investigation of more than forty-one lynchings."
1938 No award given
1939   Anderson, MarianMarian Anderson "Chosen for her special achievement in music."
1940 Wright, Louis T.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   Wright, RichardRichard Wright "Author; Uncle Tom's Children and Native Son. For his outstanding contributions to literature."
1942   Randolph, A. PhilipA. 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   Hastie, William H.William H. Hastie "Jurist and Educator; chosen for his distinguished career as a jurist and uncompromising champion of equal justice."
1944   Drew, CharlesCharles Drew "Scientist; chosen for his outstanding work in blood plasma; research led to establishment of blood plasma bank."
1945   Robeson, PaulPaul Robeson "Singer and Actor chosen for distinguished achievement in the theatre and concert stage."
1946   Marshall, ThurgoodThurgood Marshall "Special Counsel for NAACP. For distinguished service as a lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court."
1947   Julian, PercyDr. Percy Julian "Research Chemist chosen for many important discoveries that have saved many lives."
1948   Tobias, Channing H.Channing H. Tobias "In recognition of his consistent role as a defender of fundamental American liberties."
1949   Bunche, Ralph J.Ralph J. Bunche "International civil servant; acting UN mediator in Palestine. For singular service to the United Nations."
1950 Houston, Charles HamiltonCharles Hamilton Houston "Chairman, NAACP Legal Committee and stalwart defender of democracy."
1951 Staupers, Mabel KeatonMabel Keaton Staupers "Leader of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses."
1952 Moore, Harry T.Harry T. Moore "NAACP leader in the state of Florida and a martyr in the crusade for freedom."
1953   Williams, Paul R.Paul R. Williams "Distinguished architect, for his pioneer contributions as a creative designer of livable, attractive modern dwellings."
1954 Lawless, Theodore K.Theodore K. Lawless "Physician, educator and philanthropist. For pioneering achievements in dermatology."
1955 Murphy, Carl J.Carl J. Murphy "Dedicated editor, publisher and farsighted civic leader."
1956   Robinson, Jack RooseveltJack Roosevelt Robinson "Brilliant and versatile athlete; for superb sportsmanship and for his singular role in athletics."
1957   King, Jr., Martin LutherMartin 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   Ellington, Edward Kennedy (Duke)Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington "Composer and orchestra leader. For outstanding and unique musical achievements."
1960   Hughes, LangstonLangston Hughes "Poet, author and playwright."
1961   Clark, Kenneth B.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   Weaver, Robert C.Robert C. Weaver "Administrator, Housing and Home Finance Agency; for his long years of dedicated public service at municipal, state and federal levels."
1963 Evers, Medgar WileyMedgar Wiley Evers "NAACP field secretary for the state of Mississippi. For his dedication and steadfast courage in the face of continued death threats."
1964   Wilkins, RoyRoy Wilkins "Executive Director, NAACP. For his leadership, integrity and his dedicated service."
1965   Price, LeontyneLeontyne Price "Metropolitan Opera star, in recognition of her divinely inspired talent."
1966 Johnson, John H.John H. Johnson "Founder/President of the Johnson Publishing Company of Chicago."
1967   Brooke, III, Edward W.Edward W. Brooke, III "First African American to win popular election to the United States Senate since Reconstruction."
1968   Davis, Jr., SammySammy Davis, Jr. "Broadway/Hollywood star and civil rights activist."
1969   Mitchell, Jr., Clarence M.Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. "Director, Washington Bureau, NAACP and civil rights lobbyist. For his pivotal role in the enactment of civil rights legislation."
1970 Lawrence, JacobJacob Lawrence "Artist, teacher and humanitarian."
1971 Sullivan, Leon HowardLeon Howard Sullivan "Clergyman, activist and prophet."
1972   Parks, Gordon Alexander BuchananGordon Alexander Buchanan Parks "In recognition of his unique creativity, as exemplified by his outstanding achievements as photographer, writer, film maker and composer."
1973 Riles, Wilson C.Wilson C. Riles "Educator, in recognition of the stature he has attained as a national leader in the field of education."
1974   Keith, Damon J.Damon J. Keith "Jurist; in tribute to his steadfast defense of constitutional principles."
1975 No award given
1976   Aaron, HankHank Aaron "Athlete, in recognition of his singular achievement in the sport which symbolizes America – baseball; his impressive home run record."
1977[a]   Ailey, AlvinAlvin Ailey "Innovative dancer, choreographer and artistic director."
  Haley, Alexander PalmerAlexander Palmer Haley "Author, biographer and lecturer; exhaustive research and literary skill combined in Roots."
1978 No award given
1979[a]   Young, Andrew JacksonAndrew Jackson Young "Minister plenipotentiary and extraordinary United States Ambassador to the United Nations."
  Parks, Rosa L.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 Logan, Rayford W.Rayford W. Logan "Educator, historian, author for his prodigious efforts to set before the world the black American's continuing struggle against oppression."
1981 Young, Coleman AlexanderColeman Alexander Young "Mayor, City of Detroit; public servant, labor leader."
1982   Mays, Benjamin ElijahBenjamin Elijah Mays "Educator, theologian and humanitarian."
1983   Horne, LenaLena Horne "Artist humanitarian and living symbol of excellence."
1984 No award given
1985[a]   Bradley, TomTom Bradley "Government executive, public servant, humanist; Chief Executive of Calvert, Texas."
  Cosby, William H.William H. Cosby "Humorist, artist, educator, family man and humanitarian."
1986 Hooks, Benjamin LawsonBenjamin Lawson Hooks "Executive Director, NAACP. In tribute to his precedent-setting accomplishments."
1987 Sutton, Percy EllisPercy Ellis Sutton "Public servant, businessman, community leader."
1988 Patterson, Frederick DouglassFrederick Douglass Patterson "Educator, doctor of veterinary medicine, visionary and humanitarian."
1989   Jackson, Jesse LouisJesse Louis Jackson "Clergyman, political leader, civil rights activist; first American of African descent to become a major presidential candidate."
1990   Wilder, Lawrence DouglasLawrence Douglas Wilder "Governor, public servant, attorney and visionary in tribute to an extraordinary life of accomplishment."
1991   Powell, Colin L.Colin L. Powell "General of the U.S. Army, 12th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Department of Defense."
1992   Jordan, BarbaraBarbara Jordan "Lawyer, educator, political leader and stateswoman."
1993   Height, Dorothy IreneDorothy 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   Angelou, MayaMaya Angelou "Poet, author, actress, playwright, producer, educator and historian."
1995   Franklin, John HopeJohn Hope Franklin "Historian, scholar and educator; in recognition of an unrelenting quest for truth and the enlightenment of Western Civilization."
1996   Higginbotham, Jr., A. LeonA. 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 Rowan, Carl T.Carl T. Rowan "Journalist, publicist, civic leader and public servant."
1998   Evers-Williams, MyrlieMyrlie Evers-Williams "Civil rights activist, risk-taker, mother, true believer."
1999 Graves, Sr., Earl G.Earl G. Graves, Sr. "Founder, Black Enterprise Magazine; Businessman, publisher, educator, advocate, entrepreneur, family man."
2000   Winfrey, OprahOprah Winfrey "Actress, producer, educator, publisher and humanitarian."
2001   Jordan, Vernon E.Vernon E. Jordan "Lawyer, Advisor to Presidents, Champion of Civil Rights and Human Rights, Exemplar and True Believer."
2002   Lewis, JohnJohn Lewis "Public servant, protector of civil and human rights, community leader and inspirer of youth."
2003 Motley, Constance BakerConstance 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   Carter, Robert L.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   Hill, Oliver W.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   Carson, Sr., Benjamin S.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   Conyers, Jr., JohnJohn Conyers, Jr. "Guardian of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, consummate legislator and public servant."
2008   Dee, RubyRuby Dee "Actress, poet, playwright and civil rights activist"
2009   Bond, JulianJulian Bond "Former Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors and legendary civil rights activist"
2010   Tyson, CicelyCicely Tyson "Actress and civil rights activist"
2011   Freeman, Frankie MuseFrankie Muse Freeman "Attorney and civil rights activist."
2012   Belafonte, HarryHarry Belafonte "Singer, song writer, actor and social activist."
2013   Norman, JessyeJessye Norman "Opera singer, Grammy Award winner."
2014   Jones, QuincyQuincy Jones "Composer, Producer, Grammy Award winner."
2015   Poitier, SidneySidney Poitier "Actor and Social activist, Oscar Winner."
2016   Jones, Nathaniel R.Nathaniel R. Jones "Lawyer, Jurist, Academic and Public Servant"


  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. 
General references