Thursday, February 5, 2015

Black History Month: The Springarn Medal

Have you heard of the Springarn Medal? Me neither. Well, let's correct this deficiency.

The Springarn Medal
The Springarn Medal was instituted in 1914 by Joel Elias Spingarn (1875-1939), who was the Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors at that time. Dr. Springarn funded the medal himself and awarded it annually until his death. He bequeathed funding for the medal in his will "in perpetuity". The Springarn Medal has been awarded annually ever since—except for 1938 when no award was given. The NAACP gives the Springarn Medal annually, “for the highest or most noble achievement by a black American” (Smith, J.C. p.475).

J. E. Springarn
The first Springarn Medal was awarded in 1915 to biologist Ernest Everett Just.  Dr. Just taught in the medical program at Howard University, and he earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago (Smith, J.C. p.475).

Some of the notable men and women who have won the award are in the following list, and the library has materials on them. Please ask one of the librarians if you want to borrow any library materials about these honorees.

Marian Anderson, 1939
Thurgood Marshall, 1946
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
Langston Hughes, 1960
Medgar Evers, 1963
Hank Aaron, 1976
Rosa Parks, 1979
Colin Powell, 1991
Maya Angelou, 1994
Oprah Winfrey, 2000

To see a complete list of winners go to this site:
For more information on the award itself go here


Smith, J.C. (2003). Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events. Detroit: Visible Ink Press.

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