"FOR HIS PIONEER ROLE IN OPENING UP A NEW FIELD OF ENDEAVOR FOR YOUNG NEGROES": ORIGINAL 1956 PROGRAM CELEBRATING THE AWARDING OF THE NAACP'S PRESTIGIOUS SPINGARN MEDAL, SIGNED BY THAT YEAR'S RECIPIENT JACKIE ROBINSON, AND FIVE OTHERS
(ROBINSON, Jackie) NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE. Program signed [Spingarn Medal award ceremony]. New York: NAACP, (1956). Octavo, staple-bound as issued, original printed self-wrappers; pp. 8. Housed in a custom clanshell box. $8500.
Original 1956 program from the awarding of the NAACP's prestigious Spingarn Medal, "awarded annually for the highest achievement of an American Negro," signed on the front cover by that year's recipient Jackie Robinson in blue ink. Also signed by television personality and presenter of the award Ed Sullivan, boxer Floyd Patterson, activist and NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins, and two other attendees.
The Springarn Medal was created by Joel Elias Spingarn, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NAACP, in 1914, and is awarded annually for outstanding achievement by an African American. For many years, the award was considered the highest honor for a black American to achieve. In this program, Robinson is described as a "brilliant and versatile athlete," and is cited as winning the award "for his superb sportsmanship, his pioneer role in opening up a new field of endeavor for young Negroes, and his civic consciousness." Earlier that year Robinson had retired from baseball. "In December 1956, the NAACP had recognized Robinson with the Spingarn Medal, which it awards annually for the highest achievement by an African American. Robinson chaired the NAACP's million-dollar Freedom Fund Drive in 1957 and was a member of the board of directors until 1967" (Library of Congress).
"That December , at a Saturday luncheon in the Palm Room at the Hotel Roosevelt on Madison Avenue in the center of Manhattan, Robinson accepted the medal. The newspaper columnist and television host Ed Sullivan presented, and when he did, and Robinson went to the lectern, the room stood in prolonged ovation. 'To be honored in this way means more than anything that has happened to me before,' Robinson said. 'The NAACP represents everything that a man should stand for—for human dignity, for brotherhood, for fair play.' Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Du Bois and Floyd Patterson sat among the audience, and all the tables were full, and Robinson's speech kept getting interrupted by applause" (Kennedy, "Jackie Robinson: Shaking the Foundations," TheHistoryReader.com).
The first recipient of the award was biologist Ernest E. Just in 1915, who was the Head of Physiology at Howard University Medical School. Robinson was the 41st recipient of the award, following in the footsteps of such Civil Rights greats as W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary B. Talbert, A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Carl Murphy. The following year, the award would be presented to Martin Luther King, Jr., as a "dedicated and selfless clergyman" and for his "leadership in the Montgomery bus protest movement."
Faint creasing and soiling to front wrapper. A near-fine and highly desirable signed copy of this scarce program.