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Spingarn Medal facts for kids

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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. 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. The gold medal is valued at $100, and Spingarn left $20,000 (equivalent to $421,000 in 2022) in his will for the NAACP to continue giving it indefinitely.

List of recipients

Year Picture Name Rationale
1915 Ernest Everett Just Just, Ernest EverettErnest E. Just "Head of Physiology, Howard University Medical School for research in biology."
1916 Charles Young Young, CharlesCharles Young "Services in organizing the Liberian Constabulary and roads in the Republic of Liberia."
1917 Harry Burleigh Burleigh, Harry T.Harry T. Burleigh "Excellence in the field of creative music."
1918 William Braithwaite Braithwaite, William StanleyWilliam Stanley Braithwaite "Distinguished achievements in literature."
1919 Archibald Grimké 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 W. E. B. Du Bois DuBois, William Edward Burghardt (W. E. B.)William Edward Burghardt (W. E. B.) DuBois "Author, Editor Crisis Magazine; founding and calling of Pan-African Congress."
1921 Charles Sidney Gilpin as Brutus Jones Gilpin, Charles S.Charles S. Gilpin "Notable performance in the title role of The Emperor Jones and for excellence as an actor."
1922 Mary Burnett Talbert Talbert, Mary B.Mary B. Talbert "Former President of the National Association of Colored Women and for continued service to women of color."
1923 George Washington Carver Carver, George WashingtonGeorge Washington Carver "Head of Department of Research and Director of the Experiment Station of Tuskegee Inst. For researching Agricultural Chemistry."
1924 Roland Hayes Hayes, RolandRoland Hayes "Singer; for artistry through interpreting Negro folk song; soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra."
1925 James Weldon Johnson Johnson, James WeldonJames Weldon Johnson "Former U.S. Consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua; former editor and secretary of NAACP."
1926 Carter G. Woodson 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 Anthony Overton.png Overton, AnthonyAnthony Overton "President of Victory Life Insurance Company, the first black company certified by the state of New York."
1928 Charles W. Chesnutt 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 Mordecai Wyatt Johnson Johnson, Mordecai WyattMordecai Wyatt Johnson "President of Howard University. For distinguished leadership as first black president."
1930 Henry A. Hunt 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 Robert Russa Moton Moton, Robert RussaRobert Russa Moton "Principal of the Tuskegee Institute. For excellent leadership and service in the field of education."
1933 Max Yergan 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 William T. B. Williams(Cropped).jpg 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 Mary McLeod Bethune Bethune, Mary McLeodMary McLeod Bethune "Founder and President of Bethune Cookman College. For outstanding leadership and service to education."
1936 John Hope John Hope
(awarded posthumously)
"President of Atlanta University; distinguished leader of his race."
1937 Walter Francis White White, WalterWalter White "Executive Secretary of NAACP. For his personal investigation of more than forty-one lynchings."
1938 No award given
1939 Marian Anderson 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 Richard Wright Wright, RichardRichard Wright "Author; Uncle Tom's Children and Native Son. For his outstanding contributions to literature."
1942 A. Philip Randolph 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 William H. Hastie Hastie, William H.William H. Hastie "Jurist and Educator; chosen for his distinguished career as a jurist and uncompromising champion of equal justice."
1944 Charles R. Drew Drew, CharlesCharles Drew "Scientist; chosen for his outstanding work in blood plasma; research led to establishment of blood plasma bank."
1945 Paul Robeson Robeson, PaulPaul Robeson "Singer and Actor chosen for distinguished achievement in the theatre and concert stage."
1946 Thurgood Marshall 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 Channing Heggie Tobias Tobias, Channing H.Channing H. Tobias "In recognition of his consistent role as a defender of fundamental American liberties."
1949 Ralph Bunche 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 Paul Williams 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 Jackie Robinson Robinson, Jack RooseveltJack Roosevelt Robinson "Brilliant and versatile athlete; for superb sportsmanship and for his singular role in athletics."
1957 Martin Luther King, Jr 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 Duke Ellington Ellington, Edward Kennedy (Duke)Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington "Composer and orchestra leader. For outstanding and unique musical achievements."
1960 Langston Hughes 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 Robert C. Weaver 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 Medgar Evers 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 Roy Wilkins Wilkins, RoyRoy Wilkins "Executive Director, NAACP. For his leadership, integrity and his dedicated service."
1965 Leontyne Price 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 Edward Brooke Brooke, III, Edward W.Edward W. Brooke, III "First African American to win popular election to the United States Senate since Reconstruction."
1968 Sammy Davis Jr. Davis, Jr., SammySammy Davis, Jr. "Broadway/Hollywood star and civil rights activist."
1969 Clarence Mitchell Jr. 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 Jacob Lawrence Parks, GordonGordon 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 Damon Keith Keith, Damon J.Damon J. Keith "Jurist; in tribute to his steadfast defense of constitutional principles."
1975 No award given
1976 Hank Aaron Aaron, HankHank Aaron "Athlete, in recognition of his singular achievement in the sport which symbolizes America – baseball; his impressive home run record."
1977 Alvin Ailey Ailey, AlvinAlvin Ailey "Innovative dancer, choreographer and artistic director."
Alex Haley Haley, AlexAlex Haley "Author, biographer and lecturer; exhaustive research and literary skill combined in Roots."
1978 No award given
1979 Andrew Young Young, AndrewAndrew Young "Minister plenipotentiary and extraordinary United States Ambassador to the United Nations."
Rosa Parks 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 Coleman Young Young, Coleman AlexanderColeman Alexander Young "Mayor, City of Detroit; public servant, labor leader."
1982 Benjamin Mays Mays, Benjamin ElijahBenjamin Elijah Mays "Educator, theologian and humanitarian."
1983 Lena Horne Horne, LenaLena Horne "Artist humanitarian and living symbol of excellence."
1984 No award given
1985 Tom Bradley Bradley, TomTom Bradley "Government executive, public servant, humanist; Mayor of Los Angeles for 20 years."
Bill Cosby Cosby, BillBill 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 Jesse Jackson Jackson, Jesse LouisJesse Louis Jackson "Clergyman, political leader, civil rights activist; first American of African descent to become a major presidential candidate."
1990 Douglas Wilder Wilder, Lawrence DouglasLawrence Douglas Wilder "Governor, public servant, attorney and visionary in tribute to an extraordinary life of accomplishment."
1991 Colin Powell Powell, Colin L.Colin L. Powell "General of the U.S. Army, 12th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Department of Defense."
1992 Barbara Jordan Jordan, BarbaraBarbara Jordan "Lawyer, educator, political leader and stateswoman."
1993 Dorothy Height 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 Maya Angelou speaking at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton Angelou, MayaMaya Angelou "Poet, author, actress, playwright, producer, educator and historian."
1995 John Hope Franklin Franklin, John HopeJohn 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. 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 Myrlie Evers-Williams Evers-Williams, MyrlieMyrlie Evers-Williams "Civil rights activist, risk-taker, mother, true believer."
1999 Earl G. Graves Sr. Graves, Sr., Earl G.Earl G. Graves, Sr. "Founder, Black Enterprise Magazine; Businessman, publisher, educator, advocate, entrepreneur, family man."
2000 Oprah Winfrey Winfrey, OprahOprah Winfrey "Actress, producer, educator, publisher and humanitarian."
2001 Vernon Jordan Jordan, Vernon E.Vernon E. Jordan "Lawyer, Advisor to Presidents, Champion of Civil Rights and Human Rights, Exemplar and True Believer."
2002 John Lewis Lewis, JohnJohn Lewis "Public servant, protector of civil and human rights, community leader and inspirer of youth."
2003 Constance Baker Motley 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 Robert L. Carter 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 Oliver Hill (attorney) 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 Ben Carson 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 John Conyers Conyers, Jr., JohnJohn Conyers, Jr. "Guardian of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, consummate legislator and public servant."
2008 Ruby Dee Dee, RubyRuby Dee "Actress, poet, playwright and civil rights activist"
2009 Julian Bond Bond, JulianJulian Bond "Former Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors and legendary civil rights activist"
2010 Cicely Tyson Tyson, CicelyCicely Tyson "Actress and civil rights activist"
2011 Frankie Muse Freeman Freeman, Frankie MuseFrankie Muse Freeman "Attorney and civil rights activist."
2012 Harry Belafonte Belafonte, HarryHarry Belafonte "Singer, song writer, actor and social activist."
2013 Jessye Norman Norman, JessyeJessye Norman "Opera singer, Grammy Award winner."
2014 Quincy Jones Jones, QuincyQuincy Jones "Composer, Producer, Grammy Award winner."
2015 Sidney Poitier Poitier, SidneySidney Poitier "Actor and Social activist, Oscar Winner."
2016 Nathaniel R. Jones Jones, Nathaniel R.Nathaniel R. Jones "Lawyer, Jurist, Academic and Public Servant"
2018 Willie L. Brown Brown, Willie L.Willie L. Brown Former mayor of San Francisco and former speaker of the California Assembly
2019 Patrick Gaspard Gaspard, PatrickPatrick Gaspard a lifelong community activist, a former American diplomat, and the current president of the Center for American Progress
2021 Cato T. Laurencin Laurencin, Cato T.Cato T. Laurencin 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 Patrick Gaspard Clyburn, JimJim Clyburn House Majority Whip
2023 Dukes, HazelHazel Dukes 8th National President of the NAACP
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