Skip to main content

The Fourteenth Spingarn Medal

The Fourteenth Spingarn Medal

THE Fourteenth Spingarn Medal has been awarded to Charles Waddell Chesnutt of Cleveland, Ohio, "In recognition of his pioneer work as literary artist depicting the life and struggle of Americans of Negro descent, and for his long and useful career as scholar, worker and freeman of one of America's greatest cities".

The Spingarn medal was established by Joel E. Spingarn in 1914 and is awarded annually "for the highest or noblest achievement by an American Negro during the proceeding year or years".

It is no easy task to interpret and carry out the spirit of this distinguished award. If the Committee should emphasize the achievement of a single year they would be in grave danger of rewarding an exceptional and accidental deed, popular and notable at the time, but of no lasting importance and giving no real indication of character and ability. On the other hand, it the Committee should establish the custom of awarding this medal simply for the rounding out of a long and honorable career, it would again miss the real object which is to herald distinguished accomplishment, rather than desert or length of days.

In awarding this medal to Mr. Chesnutt this year, the Committee has had in mind a singular fact: it is not simply true that Mr. Chesnutt has done distinguished work in past years, but it is singularly true that that work today and this year is being recognized as of prime importance in the renaissance of American Negro literature. Perhaps no singular man could be picked out who is more worthy to be called the Dean of young black artists who are writing today This was one reason for the award, and in addition, the Committee had in mind Mr. Chesnutt's personality, his artistic detachment, his humor and good-nature, the high regard in which he is held by his fellow citizens of Cleveland, white and black, his interest in every civic movement, which makes for the betterment of men. For these reasons it seems to THE CRISIS that the Spingarn medal has seldom, if ever, been more fittingly awarded.