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

1915Just, Ernest EverettProfessor Ernest E. Just"Head of Physiology, Howard University Medical School for research in biology."
1916Young, CharlesMajor Charles Young"Services in organizing the Liberian Constabulary and roads in the Republic of Liberia."
1917Burleigh, Harry T.Harry T. Burleigh"Excellence in the field of creative music."
1918Braithwaite, William StanleyWilliam Stanley Braithwaite"Distinguished achievements in literature."
1919Grimké, 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."
1920DuBois, William Edwards Burghardt (W. E. B.)William Edwards Burghardt (W. E. B.) DuBois"Author, Editor Crisis Magazine; founding and calling of Pan-African Congress."
1921Gilpin, Charles S.Charles S. Gilpin"Notable performance in the title role of The Emperor Jones and for excellence as an actor."
1922Talbert, Mary B.Mary B. Talbert"Former President of the National Association of Colored Women and for continued service to women of color."
1923Carver, George WashingtonGeorge Washington Carver"Head of Department of Research and Director of the Experiment Station of Tuskegee Inst. For researching Agricultural Chemistry."
1924Hayes, RolandRoland Hayes"Singer; for artistry through interpreting Negro folk song; soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra."
1925Johnson, James WeldonJames Weldon Johnson"Former U.S. Consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua; former editor and secretary of NAACP."
1926Woodson, 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."
1927Overton, AnthonyAnthony Overton"President of Victory Life Insurance Company, the first black company certified by the state of New York."
1928Chesnutt, Charles W.Charles W. Chesnutt"Author; for his pioneer work as a literary artist, depicting the life and struggle of Americans of Negro descent."
1929Johnson, Mordecai WyattMordecai Wyatt Johnson"President of Howard University. For distinguished leadership as first black president."
1930Hunt, 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."
1931Harrison, Richard BerryRichard Berry Harrison"For his fine and reverent characterization of the Lord in Marc Connelly's Play – The Green Pastures."
1932Moton, Robert RussaRobert Russa Moton"Principal of the Tuskegee Institute. For excellent leadership and service in the field of education."
1933Yergan, MaxMax Yergan"American Y.M.C.A. Secretary; missionary of intelligence, tact and self-sacrifice. For the excellence of his work in Africa."
1934Williams, 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."
1935Bethune, Mary McLeodMary McLeod Bethune"Founder and President of Bethune Cookman College. For outstanding leadership and service to education."
1936John Hope
(awarded posthumously)
"President of Atlanta University; distinguished leader of his race."
1937White, WalterWalter White"Executive Secretary of NAACP. For his personal investigation of more than forty-one lynchings."
1938No award given
1939Anderson, MarianMarian Anderson"Chosen for her special achievement in music."
1940Wright, 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."
1941Wright, RichardRichard Wright"Author; Uncle Tom's Children and Native Son. For his outstanding contributions to literature."
1942Randolph, 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."
1943Hastie, William H.William H. Hastie"Jurist and Educator; chosen for his distinguished career as a jurist and uncompromising champion of equal justice."
1944Drew, CharlesCharles Drew"Scientist; chosen for his outstanding work in blood plasma; research led to establishment of blood plasma bank."
1945Robeson, PaulPaul Robeson"Singer and Actor chosen for distinguished achievement in the theatre and concert stage."
1946Marshall, ThurgoodThurgood Marshall"Special Counsel for NAACP. For distinguished service as a lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court."
1947Julian, PercyDr. Percy Julian"Research Chemist chosen for many important discoveries that have saved many lives."
1948Tobias, Channing H.Channing H. Tobias"In recognition of his consistent role as a defender of fundamental American liberties."
1949Bunche, Ralph J.Ralph J. Bunche"International civil servant; acting UN mediator in Palestine. For singular service to the United Nations."
1950Houston, Charles HamiltonCharles Hamilton Houston"Chairman, NAACP Legal Committee and stalwart defender of democracy."
1951Staupers, Mabel KeatonMabel Keaton Staupers"Leader of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses."
1952Moore, Harry T.Harry T. Moore"NAACP leader in the state of Florida and a martyr in the crusade for freedom."
1953Williams, Paul R.Paul R. Williams"Distinguished architect, for his pioneer contributions as a creative designer of livable, attractive modern dwellings."
1954Lawless, Theodore K.Theodore K. Lawless"Physician, educator and philanthropist. For pioneering achievements in dermatology."
1955Murphy, Carl J.Carl J. Murphy"Dedicated editor, publisher and farsighted civic leader."
1956Robinson, Jack RooseveltJack Roosevelt Robinson"Brilliant and versatile athlete; for superb sportsmanship and for his singular role in athletics."
1957King, Jr., Martin LutherMartin Luther King, Jr."Dedicated and selfless clergyman; for leadership role in the Montgomery bus protest movement."
1958Daisy 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."
1959Ellington, Edward Kennedy (Duke)Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington"Composer and orchestra leader. For outstanding and unique musical achievements."
1960Hughes, LangstonLangston Hughes"Poet, author and playwright."
1961Clark, 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."
1962Weaver, 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."
1963Evers, 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."
1964Wilkins, RoyRoy Wilkins"Executive Director, NAACP. For his leadership, integrity and his dedicated service."
1965Price, LeontyneLeontyne Price"Metropolitan Opera star, in recognition of her divinely inspired talent."
1966Johnson, John H.John H. Johnson"Founder/President of the Johnson Publishing Company of Chicago."
1967Brooke, III, Edward W.Edward W. Brooke, III"First African American to win popular election to the United States Senate since Reconstruction."
1968Davis, Jr., SammySammy Davis, Jr."Broadway/Hollywood star and civil rights activist."
1969Mitchell, 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."
1970Lawrence, JacobJacob Lawrence"Artist, teacher and humanitarian."
1971Sullivan, Leon HowardLeon Howard Sullivan"Clergyman, activist and prophet."
1972Parks, 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."
1973Riles, Wilson C.Wilson C. Riles"Educator, in recognition of the stature he has attained as a national leader in the field of education."
1974Keith, Damon J.Damon J. Keith"Jurist; in tribute to his steadfast defense of constitutional principles."
1975No award given
1976Aaron, HankHank Aaron"Athlete, in recognition of his singular achievement in the sport which symbolizes America – baseball; his impressive home run record."
1977Ailey, 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."
1978No award given
1979Young, 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."
1980Logan, 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."
1981Young, Coleman AlexanderColeman Alexander Young"Mayor, City of Detroit; public servant, labor leader."
1982Mays, Benjamin ElijahBenjamin Elijah Mays"Educator, theologian and humanitarian."
1983Horne, LenaLena Horne"Artist humanitarian and living symbol of excellence."
1984No award given
1985Bradley, 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."
1986Hooks, Benjamin LawsonBenjamin Lawson Hooks"Executive Director, NAACP. In tribute to his precedent-setting accomplishments."
1987Sutton, Percy EllisPercy Ellis Sutton"Public servant, businessman, community leader."
1988Patterson, Frederick DouglassFrederick Douglass Patterson"Educator, doctor of veterinary medicine, visionary and humanitarian."
1989Jackson, Jesse LouisJesse Louis Jackson"Clergyman, political leader, civil rights activist; first American of African descent to become a major presidential candidate."
1990Wilder, Lawrence DouglasLawrence Douglas Wilder"Governor, public servant, attorney and visionary in tribute to an extraordinary life of accomplishment."
1991Powell, Colin L.Colin L. Powell"General of the U.S. Army, 12th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Department of Defense."
1992Jordan, BarbaraBarbara Jordan"Lawyer, educator, political leader and stateswoman."
1993Height, 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."
1994Angelou, MayaMaya Angelou"Poet, author, actress, playwright, producer, educator and historian."
1995Franklin, John HopeJohn Hope Franklin"Historian, scholar and educator; in recognition of an unrelenting quest for truth and the enlightenment of Western Civilization."
1996Higginbotham, 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."
1997Rowan, Carl T.Carl T. Rowan"Journalist, publicist, civic leader and public servant."
1998Evers-Williams, MyrlieMyrlie Evers-Williams"Civil rights activist, risk-taker, mother, true believer."
1999Graves, Sr., Earl G.Earl G. Graves, Sr."Founder, Black Enterprise Magazine; Businessman, publisher, educator, advocate, entrepreneur, family man."
2000Winfrey, OprahOprah Winfrey"Actress, producer, educator, publisher and humanitarian."
2001Jordan, Vernon E.Vernon E. Jordan"Lawyer, Advisor to Presidents, Champion of Civil Rights and Human Rights, Exemplar and True Believer."
2002Lewis, JohnJohn Lewis"Public servant, protector of civil and human rights, community leader and inspirer of youth."
2003Motley, 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."
2004Carter, 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."
2005Hill, 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."
2006Carson, 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."
2007Conyers, Jr., JohnJohn Conyers, Jr."Guardian of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, consummate legislator and public servant."
2008Dee, RubyRuby Dee"Actress, poet, playwright and civil rights activist"
2009Bond, JulianJulian Bond"Former Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors and legendary civil rights activist"
2010Tyson, CicelyCicely Tyson"Actress and civil rights activist"
2011Freeman, Frankie MuseFrankie Muse Freeman"Attorney and civil rights activist."
2012Belafonte, HarryHarry Belafonte"Singer, song writer, actor and social activist."
2013Norman, JessyeJessye Norman"Opera singer, Grammy Award winner."
2014Jones, QuincyQuincy Jones"Composer, Producer, Grammy Award winner."
2015Poitier, SidneySidney Poitier"Actor and Social activist, Oscar Winner."
2016Jones, 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.