Spingarn Medal Winners: 1915 to Today

1915:  Professor Ernest E. Just
Head of Physiology, Howard University Medical School for research in biology.

1916: Major Charles Young
Services in organizing the Liberian Constabulary and roads in the Republic of Liberia.

1917: Harry T. Burleigh
Excellence in the field of creative music.

1918: William Stanley Braithwaite
Distinguished achievements in literature.

1919: Archibald H. Grimke
U.S. Consul in Santo Domingo; President of American Negro Academy; for seventy years of distinguished service to his race and country.

1920: William Edwards Burghardt (W.E. B.) DuBois
Author, Editor Crisis Magazine; founding and calling of Pan-African Congress.

1921: Charles S. Gilpin
Notable performance in the title role of The Emperor Jones and for excellence as an actor.

1922: Mary B. Talbert
Former President of the National Association of Colored Women and for continued service to women of color.

1923: George Washington Carver
Head of Department of Research and Director of the Experiment Station of Tuskegee Inst. For researching Agricultural Chemistry.

1924: Roland Hayes
Singer; for artistry through interpreting Negro folk song; soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

1925: James Weldon Johnson
Former U.S. Consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua; former editor and secretary of NAACP.

1926: 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
President of Victory Life Insurance Company, the first black company certified by the state of New York.

1928: Charles W. Chestnutt
Author; for his pioneer work as a literary artist, depicting the life and struggle of Americans of Negro descent.

1929: Mordecai Wyatt Johnson
President of Howard University. For distinguished leadership as first black president.

1930: 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: Richard Berry Harrison
For his fine and reverent characterization of the Lord in Marc Connelly’s Play – The Green Pastures.

1932: Robert Russa Moton
Principal of the Tuskegee Institute. For excellent leadership and service in the field of education.

1933: Max Yergan
American Y.M.C.A. Secretary; missionary of intelligence, tact and self-sacrifice. For the excellence of his work in Africa.

1934: 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: Mary McLeod Bethune
Founder and President of Bethune Cookman College. For outstanding leadership and service to education.

1936: John Hope (posthumously)
President of Atlanta University; distinguished leader of his race.

1937: Walter White
Executive Secretary of NAACP. For his personal investigation of more than forty-one lynchings.


1939: Marian Anderson
Chosen for her special achievement in music.

1940: 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
Author; Uncle Tom’s Children and Native Son. For his outstanding contributions to literature.

1942: 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: William H. Hastie
Jurist and Educator; chosen for his distinguished career as a jurist and uncompromising champion of equal justice.

1944: Charles Drew
Scientist; chosen for his outstanding work in blood plasma; research led to establishment of blood plasma bank.

1945: Paul Robeson
Singer and Actor chosen for distinguished achievement in the theatre and concert stage.

1946: Thurgood Marshall
Special Counsel for NAACP. For distinguished service as a lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court.

1947: Dr. Percy Julian
Research Chemist chosen for many important discoveries that have saved many lives.

1948: Channing H. Tobias
In recognition of his consistent role as a defender of fundamental American liberties.

1949: Ralph J. Bunche
International civil servant; acting UN mediator in Palestine. For singular service to the United Nations.

1950: Charles Hamilton Houston
Chairman, NAACP Legal Committee and stalwart defender of democracy.

1951: Mabel Keaton Staupers
Leader of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.

1952: Harry T. Moore
NAACP leader in the state of Florida and a martyr in the crusade for freedom.

1953: Paul R. Williams
Distinguished architect, for his pioneer contributions as a creative designer of livable, attractive modern dwellings.

1954: Theodore K. Lawless
Physician, educator and philanthropist. For pioneering achievements in dermatology.

1955: Carl J. Murphy
Dedicated editor, publisher and farsighted civic leader.

1956: Jack Roosevelt Robinson
Brilliant and versatile athlete; for superb sportsmanship and for his singular role in athletics.

1957: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dedicated and selfless clergyman; for leadership role in the Montgomery bus protest movement.

1958: Mrs. 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: Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington
Composer and orchestra leader. For outstanding and unique musical achievements.

1960: Langston Hughes
Poet, author and playwright.

1961: 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
Administrator, Housing and Home Finance Agency; for his long years of dedicated public service at municipal, state and federal levels.

1963: 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: Roy Wilkins
Executive Director, NAACP. For his leadership, integrity and his dedicated service.

1965: Leontyne Price
Metropolitan Opera star, in recognition of her divinely inspired talent.

1966: John H. Johnson
Founder/President of the Johnson Publishing Company of Chicago.

1967: Edward W. Brooke, III
First African American to win popular election to the United States Senate since Reconstruction.

1968: Sammy Davis, Jr.
Broadway/Hollywood star and civil rights activist.

1969: Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr.
Director, Washington Bureau, NAACP and civil rights lobbyist. For his pivotal role in the enactment of civil rights legislation.

1970: Jacob Lawrence
Artist, teacher and humanitarian.

1971: Leon Howard Sullivan
Clergyman, activist and prophet.

1972: Gordon Alexander Buchanan Parks
In recognition of his unique creativity, as exemplified by his outstanding achievements as photographer, writer, film maker and composer.

1973: Wilson C. Riles
Educator, in recognition of the stature he has attained as a national leader in the field of education.

1974: Damon J. Keith
Jurist; in tribute to his steadfast defense of constitutional principles.


1976: Hank Aaron
Athlete, in recognition of his singular achievement in the sport which symbolizes America – baseball; his impressive home run record.

1977: Alvin Ailey
Innovative dancer, choreographer and artistic director.

1977: Alexander Palmer Haley
Author, biographer and lecturer; exhaustive research and literary skill combined in Roots.


1979: Andrew Jackson Young
Minister plenipotentiary and extraordinary United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

1979: 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: 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 Alexander Young
Mayor, City of Detroit; public servant, labor leader.

1982: Benjamin Elijah Mays
Educator, theologian and humanitarian.

1983: Lena Horne
Artist humanitarian and living symbol of excellence.


1985: Tom Bradley
Government executive, public servant, humanist; Chief Executive of Calvert, Texas.

1985: William H. Cosby
Humorist, artist, educator, family man and humanitarian.

1986: Benjamin Lawson Hooks
Executive Director, NAACP. In tribute to his precedent-setting accomplishments.

1987: Percy Ellis Sutton
Public servant, businessman, community leader.

1988: Frederick Douglass Patterson
Educator, doctor of veterinary medicine, visionary and humanitarian.

1989: Jesse Louis Jackson
Clergyman, political leader, civil rights activist; first American of African descent to become a major presidential candidate.

1990: Lawrence Douglas Wilder
Governor, public servant, attorney and visionary in tribute to an extraordinary life of accomplishment.

1991: Colin L. Powell
General of the U.S. Army, 12th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Department of Defense.

1992: Barbara Jordan
Lawyer, educator, political leader and stateswoman.

1993: 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: Maya Angelou
Poet, author, actress, playwright, producer, educator and historian.

1995: John 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.
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: Carl T. Rowan
Journalist, publicist, civic leader and public servant.

1998: Myrlie Evers-Williams
Civil rights activist, risk-taker, mother, true believer.

1999: Earl G. Graves, Sr.
Founder, Black Enterprise Magazine; Businessman, publisher, educator, advocate, entrepreneur, family man.

2000: Oprah Winfrey
Actress, producer, educator, publisher and humanitarian.

2001: Vernon E. Jordan
Lawyer, Advisor to Presidents, Champion of Civil Rights and Human Rights, Exemplar and True Believer.

2002: John Lewis
Public servant, protector of civil and human rights, community leader and inspirer of youth.

2003: 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: 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 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: 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, Jr.
Guardian of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, consummate legislator and public servant.

2008: Ruby Dee
Actress, poet, playwright and civil rights activist.

2009: Julian Bond
Former Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors and legendary civil rights activist.

2010: Cicely Tyson
Actress and civil rights activist.

2011: Frankie Muse Freeman
Attorney and civil rights activist.

2012: Harry Belafonte
Singer, song writer, actor and social activist.

2013: Jessye Norman
Opera singer, Grammy Award winner.

2014: Quincy Jones
Composer, Producer, Grammy Award winner.

2015: Sidney Poitier
Actor, social activist, and Oscar winner.

2016: Nathaniel R. Jones
Lawyer, Jurist, Academic and Public Servant.