Joel Elias Spingarn
Joel Elias Spingarn, born in New York City, was an influential liberal Republican and professor of comparative literature at Columbia University from 1899 to 1911. He is widely held as mainly responsible for settling a dispute between W.E.B. DuBois, whom he'd known at Harvard, and the followers of Booker T. Washington.
In doing so, he helped realize the concept of a unified black movement through the founding of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In addition to being one of the founders of the NAACP, he became its second president, and chairman of its board from 1913 until his death.
In 1913 Spingarn established the Springarn Medal, still given annually to an African-American who has shown great achievement. During World War I, he volunteered for service in the army, succeeded in setting up a special camp to train black officers, and was a delegate to the convention that established the American Legion.
Joel encouraged the works of African American writers during the Harlem Renaissance, a period of intense black literary activity in the 1920s. He was also crucial over the years in pursuing anti-lynching legislation and introducing court cases challenging disenfranchisement, Jim Crow discrimination in public transportation and accommodations, and segregation in schools and in the armed forces.
During his life, Spingarn spoke many rallying words ("I have a dream...of a unified Negro population"). This Spingarn quote would eventually live forever in the history of the civil rights movement. The quote is believed to prefigure Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 March on Washington.
Langston Huges wrote this about Joel Spingarn, "As an American, he wished to see his country free of racial stigmas. Within the (one) month, Joel Spingarn held conferences and addressed meetings in eight cities, spreading the gospel of the NAACP throughout the Middle West, soliciting support, recruiting members, and creating good will."
The civil rights movement required cooperation between good people, both black and white. Even now though, not a lot of information is disseminated about the white heroes of racial equality. Suffice it to say, these three Americans added immensely to the success of the movement as we know it today.