The Spingarn Medal

The Spingarn Medal was instituted in 1914 by the late J.E. Spingarn (then Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors), who gave annually until his death in 1939, a gold medal to be awarded for the highest or noblest achievement by an American Negro during the preceding year or years. A fund sufficient to continue the award was set up by his will to perpetuate this award. The award is given annually for the highest achievement of an American of African descent.

2016 Spingarn Medal Honoree

The Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones

NAACP 107th Annual Convention Spingarn Awards Dinner honoring Judge Nathaniel Jones, Retired United States Circuit Court Judge and Former General Counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Read Judge Jones’s full bio.

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 youth of color.


The medal is presented annually to the man or woman 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 Awards 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. If no achievement in 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

Recommendations should be submitted in writing to The Spingarn Medal Committee, Attention: Mildred B. Roxborough 1095 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 24D, New York, NY 10036 on or before December 31st of each year for the following year’s consideration. Such communications should state in detail the achievements of the person recommended. You may download detailed application instructions here.