Arthur B. Spingarn

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Arthur Barnette Spingarn (1878–1971) was a European-American leader in the fight for civil rights for African Americans.


Arthur B. Spingarn was born in 1878 into a well-to-do Jewish family. His older brother was Joel Elias Spingarn.

He graduated from Columbia College in 1897[1] and from Columbia Law School in 1899.[2]


Spingarn was one of a small group of white Americans who decided in the 1900s to support the radical demands for racial justice being voiced by W. E. B. Du Bois in contrast to the more ameliorative views of Booker T. Washington. He served as head of the legal committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was one of its vice presidents starting in 1911.

He interrupted his legal career to serve for several years as a United States Army captain in the Sanitary Corps during World War I and protested the discriminatory treatment of African Americans in the U.S. military. He was very interested in furthering the cause of Civil Rights and improving the condition of American blacks.[3] He succeeded his brother Joel Elias Spingarn as president of the NAACP in 1940 when the legal arm of the organization was spun off into the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He served as the NAACP's president until 1965.

Personal and death

Spingarn was an avid collector and amassed a collection of materials –books, newspapers, manuscripts, and realia –related to the African-American experience worldwide, a collection "unique in its depth, breadth, and quality,"[4] which he sold to Howard University, where it was incorporated into the renamed Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, the largest and most valuable research library in America for the study of Negro life and history.

The rest of his collections were sold at auction in 1966.[5]

He died at home in New York City on December 1, 1971. At his memorial service, he was eulogized by Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins, executive director of the NAACP. Buell C. Gallagher, retired president of the City College of New York, called him "the rallying center of the aggressive forward movement" of the NAACP.[6]

His nephew was Federal Trade Commission commissinoer Stephen J. Spingarn.


  • Laws Relating to Sex Morality in New York City (1915, revised 1926)
  • Legal and Protective Measures (1950), co-authored with Jacob A. Goldberg


  1. ^ "Columbia's Commencement". The New York Times. 1897-06-06. 
  2. ^ "470 Columbia Graduates". The New York Times. 1899-06-08. 
  3. ^ "Arthur Barnett Spingarn bio". March 28, 1878. Retrieved August 29, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Moorland-Spingarn Research Center," Library Quarterly, vol. 58, no. 2, 143-163 (1988).
  5. ^ Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc., Modern Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors, Sculptures: A Group of Works by Contemporary Italian Artists / Various Owners, Including Arthur B. Spingarn, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Sanders, Warner Leroy: Public Auction, March 10, 1966
  6. ^ "Spingarn's Work Hailed at Rites". The New York Times. 1971-12-06. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 


  • New York Times: Farnsworth Fowle, "Arthur Spingarn of N.A.A.C.P. Is Dead", December 2, 1971
  • Francis H Thompson, Arthur Barnett Spingarn: Advocate for Black Rights (1987)
  • Patricia Sullivan, Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement (2009)

External links

  • Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
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