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Joel Elias Spingarn
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    (May 17, 1875-July 26, 1939)
    Born in New York City, New York
    Educator, literary critic, poet, and civil rights activist
    Professor of comparative literature at Columbia University (1899-1911)
    Wrote 'History of Literary Criticism in the Renaissance' (1899), 'The New Criticism' (1911), 'Creative Criticism' (1917), and 'The New Hesperides and Other Poems' (1924)
    Co-founder of the publisher Harcourt, Brace and Company (1919)
    Served as Chair (1914-19), Treasurer (1919-30), and President (1930-39) of the NAACP
    Established the Spingarn Medal for 'American Negroes who perform acts of distinguished merit and achievement' (1914)
    Last will included a bequest of $20,000 to fund the Spingarn Medal in perpetuity
    He ran unsuccessfully for the US House of Representatives (1908).
    He twice attended the Progressive Party convention and failed to get the delegates to add a statement condemning racial discrimination to the party platform (1912,1916).
    While serving with military intelligence during World War I, he handed over the entire NAACP membership list to his superiors, who were convinced the organization was riddled with Communists.
    He was unsuccessful in an attempt to secure passage of a bill that would have made lynching during wartime a federal crime.
    W.E.B. Du Bois said, 'I do not think that any other white man ever touched me emotionally so closely as Joel Spingarn.'
    He gave Du Bois the money for a badly needed kidney operation (1917).
    He was instrumental in getting a training camp for black officers established, resulting in about a thousand black officers being commissioned during World War I.
    An opponent of his 'new criticism' suggested he could not be a real American, given his 'sharp Semitic intelligence.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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