Sunday, 29 November 2020

Joel Elias Spingarn (1875 – 1939) - American poet, writer and teacher

This poet was found for us by Dr. Margaret Stetz 

Joel Elias Spingarn was an American educator, literary critic and civil rights activist. He was born in New York City on 17th May 1875.  He studied at Columbia College, graduating in 1895.  From 1899 to 1911, he was a Professor of comparative literature at Columbia University.

Commissioned in the U.S. Army during the First World War, Joel served as a Major.   He established the Spingarn Medal (see below) in 1914.

Joel died on 26th July 1939. 

His collection "Poems by J.E. Spingarn was publised by Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1924. 

"The English Aviator"  (scene: inn near the front)

A fine, fresh face, and manners exquisite;

A voice that tuned the vowels of our tongue

Into rich rhythms ; figure strongly knit,

And every movement graceful, shy, and young:

"You know," he said, "a suit that doesn't fit,

Hat always straight, a raw and raucous lung,

And talk made up of figures, facts, and dates,

That's how we picture people from the States."

And as he spoke, I heard the raucous drawl

(How well I know it, love it, pity, hate!) :

"Say, did you see those fellows cross that wall,

And get that gun? Gee, ain't those French men great!"

Yes, there it was, the hat on straight and all,

The clothes that didn't fit, the tones that grate;

But, O dear God, I thank you for this breed

That, scorning envy, loves the noble deed !

pp. 50 - 51

The Spingarn Medal is awarded annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for outstanding achievement by an African American. The award was created in 1914 by Joel Elias Spingarn, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NAACP.  It was first awarded in 1915  to biologist Ernest E. Just, Head of Physiology, Howard University Medical School, for research in biology and has been given most years thereafter.