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SPINGARN , two U.S. brothers of wide intellectual interests, both devoted to the development of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. joel elias spingarn (1875–1939) was a literary scholar and champion of African-American integration. The son of an immigrant Austrian merchant, Spingarn was born in New York. His doctoral thesis, A History of Literary Criticism in the Renaissance (1899), was widely acclaimed by scholars, and he thereafter had a successful academic career at Columbia University, becoming professor of comparative literature at the age of 24. With Critical Essays of the Seventeenth Century, a three-volume work which he edited in 1908, he established himself as a recognized exponent of the "New Criticism," which judged art on its own terms. However, a clash with Columbia's president, N.M. Butler, led to his dismissal in 1910. The correspondence between the two men was published a year later as A Question of Academic Freedom. Although he continued to publish literary criticism, Spingarn never returned to academic work. He wrote The New Criticism (1911) and Creative Criticism (1917). In 1919, on his return from war service in France, he helped to found the publishing firm of Harcourt, Brace and Howe, whose editorial consultant he remained until 1932. He edited Scholarship and Criticism in the United States (1922), wrote Poems (1924), and then retired to his home in Amenia, New York, where he became an authority on flower cultivation and issued the Troutbeck Leaflets (1924–31), occasional literary papers. One of the founders of the naacp and its chairman from 1913 through to 1919, Spingarn was president of the association at the time of his death. In the association, he served as a bridge between the integrationists and the Black nationalists, led by W.E.B. Du Bois, editor of the naacp's magazine Crisis. Although ideologically Spingarn was an integrationist, his friendship with and admiration for Du Bois allowed him to work with the editor until Du Bois resigned in 1934.

arthur barnett spingarn (1878–1971) was a prominent lawyer active in the New York City Bar Association. His interest in questions of the black man led him to begin an extensive collection of Black literature, which he gave to Howard University. Resigning his position in the Bar Association in 1966, Spingarn, as honorary president of the naacp, continued to support the organization and the cause for which he and his brother had worked.


Howard University, Libraries, Dictionary Catalog of the Arthur B. Spingarn Collection of Negro Authors (1970); E. Rudwick, W.E.B. Du-Bois (1960); Crisis, passim; New York Times (July 27, 1939, July 14, 1958, Jan. 3, 1966). add. bibliography: M. Van Deusen, J.E. Spingarn (1971).

[Richard Cohen]