Magazine article Black Enterprise

The Spingarn Medal

Magazine article Black Enterprise

The Spingarn Medal

Article excerpt

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. Carter G. Woodson. Mary McLeod Bethune. Paul Robeson. Thurgood Marshall. Rev. Martin Luther King Lena Horne. John H. Johnson. Jackie Robinson. Rev. Jesse Jackson. Barbara Jordan. Gen. Colin Powell. What do these people--from the worlds of education, science, politics, sports, business, the military, the church and the law--have in common? They are all among the 83 recipients of the NAACP's highest honor--the Spingarn Medal, an award instituted in 1914 by the late Joel Elias Spingarn, then chairman of the nation's most important civil rights organization. I am both greatly honored and infinitely humbled to have been chosen to receive the 84th Spigarn Medal this month.

The great thing about the Spingarn Medal is that it signifies so much more than recognition of the achievements of one individual. Indeed, past Spingarn awards serve as prominent markers of barriers confronted and overcome in our quest for a fully vested franchise in the American dream. For example, the career of 1944 recipient Dr. Charles Drew, who pioneered the preservation of blood plasma for life-saving transfusions, underscored the deadly consequences of "separate but equal" when applied to something as basic to the quality of life as healthcare. The high price of American apartheid became indelibly stamped on the national consciousness six years later when Drew, the victim of an auto accident, died after being taken to a segregated hospital that did not have the blood plasma that may have saved his life. …

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