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The Spingarn Medal was established on this day in 1914, one of the most prestigious annual awards given in African America.
It is awarded yearly by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Joel Elias Spingarn, then the chairman of the NAACP, created it. The medal has two purposes: one is to call the attention of the American people to the achievement and distinguished work among African Americans, and the other is to serve as a reward for such achievement, helping stimulate the ambition of African American youth. The Spingarn Medal is made of gold and is valued at $100.
To make certain that this award is continued on an indefinite basis, Joel E. Spingarn donated in his will $20,000 to the NAACP with the following statement: “To perpetuate the lifelong interest of my brother, Arthur B. Spingarn, of my wife, Amy E. Spingarn, and of myself in the achievements of the American Negro.” If this organization fails to continue, Howard University or Fisk University president will manage the Spingarn Medal.
In 1915, the NAACP set up a committee that consisted of several prominent persons, such as John Hope, president of Morehouse College, John Hurst, bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and William H. Taft, president of the United States of America, to select the recipients of the Spingarn Medal. The first person to receive this award was Ernest Everett Just, a former professor of biology at Howard University. Since then, there has been a recipient each year except one (1938).
The 2018 and 2019 award recipients were Willie Brown Jr. and Patrick Gaspard, and in 2022 was Jim Clyburn.
Image courtesy of DuSable Museum of African American History
Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and
African American Experience
Editors: Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.