The Spingarn Medal

Awarded annually for the highest achievement of an American of African descent.

THE SPINGARN MEDAL was instituted in 1914 by the late J. E. Spingarn (then Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), who gave annually until his death in 1939, a gold medal to be awarded “for the highest or noblest achievement by a living American Negro during the preceding year or years.” A fund sufficient to continue the award was set up by his will “to perpetuate the lifelong interest of my brother, Arthur B. Spingarn, and of myself in the achievement of the American Negro.”

Spingarn Medal Honorees

View the complete list of past Spingarn honorees.


The purpose of the medal is twofold – first to call the attention of the American people to the existence of distinguished merit and achievement among Americans of African descent, and secondly, to serve as a reward for such achievement, and as a stimulus to the ambition of colored youth.


The Spingarn Medal is the NAACP highest honor, given annually to an individual of African descent and American citizenship, who shall have made the highest achievement during the preceding year or years in any honorable field of human endeavor. The Committee of Award is bound by no burdensome restrictions, but may decide for itself each year what particular act or achievement deserves the highest acclaim; the choice is not limited to any one field, whether of intellectual, spiritual, physical, scientific, artistic, commercial, educational or other endeavor. It is intended primarily that the medal shall be for the highest achievement in the preceding year, but if no achievement in any one year seems to merit it, the Committee may award it for work achieved in preceding years, or may withhold it. The medal is usually presented to the winner at the Annual Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the presentation speech is delivered by a distinguished citizen.

A nine-person Committee of Award is selected by the NAACP Board of Directors. The Committee’s decision is final in all matters affecting the award.

Recommendation for the Award

Should be submitted, in writing, to the Secretary of the Committee of Award, at the National Office, by January 1 of each year. Such communications should state in detail the achievements of the person recommended. You may download detailed application instructions here.