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. [6] 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. [6] The gold medal is valued at $100, and Spingarn left $20,000 in his will for the NAACP to continue giving it indefinitely. [7]

List of recipients

Year Picture Name Rationale
1915 Just, Ernest Everett Professor Ernest E. Just "Head of Physiology, Howard University Medical School for research in biology."
1916 Young, Charles Major 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 Stanley William 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 Washington George Washington Carver "Head of Department of Research and Director of the Experiment Station of Tuskegee Inst. For researching Agricultural Chemistry."
1924 Hayes, Roland Roland Hayes "Singer; for artistry through interpreting Negro folk song; soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra."
1925 Johnson, James Weldon James 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, Anthony Anthony 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 Wyatt Mordecai Wyatt Johnson "President of Howard University. For distinguished leadership as first black president."
1930 Hunt, Henry 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 Harrison, Richard Berry Richard Berry Harrison "For his fine and reverent characterization of the Lord in Marc Connelly's Play – The Green Pastures ."
1932 Moton, Robert Russa Robert Russa Moton "Principal of the Tuskegee Institute. For excellent leadership and service in the field of education."
1933 Yergan, Max Max 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 Burwell 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 Bethune, Mary McLeod 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 White, Walter Walter White "Executive Secretary of NAACP. For his personal investigation of more than forty-one lynchings."
1938 No award given
1939 Anderson, Marian Marian 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, Richard Richard Wright "Author; Uncle Tom's Children and Native Son . For his outstanding contributions to literature."
1942 Randolph, A. Philip 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 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, Charles Charles Drew "Scientist; chosen for his outstanding work in blood plasma ; research led to establishment of blood plasma bank."
1945 Robeson, Paul Paul Robeson "Singer and Actor chosen for distinguished achievement in the theatre and concert stage."
1946 Marshall, Thurgood Thurgood Marshall "Special Counsel for NAACP. For distinguished service as a lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court."
1947 Julian, Percy Dr. 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 Hamilton Charles Hamilton Houston "Chairman, NAACP Legal Committee and stalwart defender of democracy."
1951 Staupers, Mabel Keaton Mabel 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 Roosevelt Jack Roosevelt Robinson "Brilliant and versatile athlete; for superb sportsmanship and for his singular role in athletics."
1957 King, Jr., Martin Luther 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 Ellington, Edward Kennedy (Duke) Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington "Composer and orchestra leader. For outstanding and unique musical achievements."
1960 Hughes, Langston Langston 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 Wiley 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 Wilkins, Roy Roy Wilkins "Executive Director, NAACP. For his leadership, integrity and his dedicated service."
1965 Price, Leontyne Leontyne 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., Sammy Sammy 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, Jacob Jacob Lawrence "Artist, teacher and humanitarian."
1971 Sullivan, Leon Howard Leon Howard Sullivan "Clergyman, activist and prophet."
1972 Parks, Gordon Alexander Buchanan Gordon 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, Hank Hank Aaron "Athlete, in recognition of his singular achievement in the sport which symbolizes America – baseball ; his impressive home run record."
1977 Ailey, Alvin Alvin Ailey "Innovative dancer, choreographer and artistic director."
Haley, Alexander Palmer Alexander Palmer Haley "Author, biographer and lecturer; exhaustive research and literary skill combined in Roots ."
1978 No award given
1979 Young, Andrew Jackson Andrew 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 Alexander Coleman Alexander Young " Mayor, City of Detroit ; public servant, labor leader."
1982 Mays, Benjamin Elijah Benjamin Elijah Mays "Educator, theologian and humanitarian."
1983 Horne, Lena Lena Horne "Artist humanitarian and living symbol of excellence."
1984 No award given
1985 Bradley, Tom Tom 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 Lawson Benjamin Lawson Hooks "Executive Director, NAACP. In tribute to his precedent-setting accomplishments."
1987 Sutton, Percy Ellis Percy Ellis Sutton "Public servant, businessman, community leader."
1988 Patterson, Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass Patterson "Educator, doctor of veterinary medicine, visionary and humanitarian."
1989 Jackson, Jesse Louis Jesse Louis Jackson "Clergyman, political leader, civil rights activist; first American of African descent to become a major presidential candidate."
1990 Wilder, Lawrence Douglas Lawrence 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, Barbara Barbara Jordan "Lawyer, educator, political leader and stateswoman."
1993 Height, Dorothy Irene 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 Angelou, Maya Maya Angelou "Poet, author, actress, playwright, producer, educator and historian."
1995 Franklin, John Hope John Hope Franklin "Historian, scholar and educator; in recognition of an unrelenting quest for truth and the enlightenment of Western Civilization."
1996 Higginbotham, Jr., A. Leon 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 Rowan, Carl T. Carl T. Rowan "Journalist, publicist, civic leader and public servant."
1998 Evers-Williams, Myrlie Myrlie 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, Oprah Oprah 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, John John Lewis "Public servant, protector of civil and human rights, community leader and inspirer of youth."
2003 Motley, Constance Baker 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 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., John John Conyers, Jr. "Guardian of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, consummate legislator and public servant."
2008 Dee, Ruby Ruby Dee "Actress, poet, playwright and civil rights activist"
2009 Bond, Julian Julian Bond "Former Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors and legendary civil rights activist"
2010 Tyson, Cicely Cicely Tyson "Actress and civil rights activist"
2011 Freeman, Frankie Muse Frankie Muse Freeman "Attorney and civil rights activist."
2012 Belafonte, Harry Harry Belafonte "Singer, song writer, actor and social activist."
2013 Norman, Jessye Jessye Norman "Opera singer, Grammy Award winner."
2014 Jones, Quincy Quincy Jones "Composer, Producer, Grammy Award winner."
2015 Poitier, Sidney Sidney Poitier "Actor and Social activist, Oscar Winner."
2016 Jones, Nathaniel R. Nathaniel R. Jones "Lawyer, Jurist, Academic and Public Servant"


  1. Two separate medals were awarded this year.
Specific references
  1. . Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved November 11, 2017 .
  2. . African American Registry . Retrieved November 11, 2017 .
General references
  • . NAACP . from the original on July 6, 2017 . Retrieved November 11, 2017 .
    • . NAACP . from the original on November 1, 2017 . Retrieved November 11, 2017 .