Augusta native Jessye Norman receives NAACP's top honor

Augusta native Jessye Norman received the NAACP's Spingarn Medal for outstanding and noble achievement by a U.S. citizen of African descent.

Editor's note: Due to a reporter’s error, opera singer Jessye Norman’s membership in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame was incorrect in an earlier version of this article. Norman was inducted in 1999. The Chronicle regrets the error.


Jessye Norman, internationally renowned opera singer and Augusta native, received the NAACP’s highest honor during the organization’s convention in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday night.

The Spingarn Medal was awarded to Norman for outstanding and noble achievement by an American citizen of African descent.

Civil rights activist and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., presented the award to Norman, who is the 98th recipient of the Spingarn Medal.

Norman was born at University Hospital on Sept. 15, 1945, and graduated from Lucy C. Laney High School in 1963. She made her operatic debut in 1969 and first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1983.

She pursued formal music training at Howard University, the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Michigan.

The soprano was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1999.

In 1998, Norman returned home to Augusta for a benefit concert at First Baptist Church on Walton Way that was broadcast on PBS.

The Spingarn Medal was instituted in 1914 by the late J.E. Spingarn, then chairman of the NAACP board of directors. Past recipients include talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, poet and educator Maya Angelou, political and religious leader Jesse Jackson and baseball player Hank Aaron.


WHAT: Jessye Norman will serve as the emcee for a concert benefiting the Jessye Norman School of the Arts on Aug. 18. Augusta entertainer and Broadway star Russell Joel Brown will headline the night of music.

WHEN: Aug. 18, 5 p.m.

WHERE: Maxwell Theatre at Georgia Regents University

TICKETS: or call (706) 826-4713

COST: $40 general admission, $20 students 25 and under with ID and active-duty military with ID


1963: Graduated from Lucy C. Laney High School

1983: Debuted at Metropolitan Opera

1984: Won Grammy for best classical vocal soloist performance

1988: Won Grammy for best opera recording

1989: Won Grammy for best opera recording

1990: Named honorary ambassador to the United Nations

1996: Had Riverwalk Augusta amphitheater and Ninth Street plaza named in her honor

1997: Received Kennedy Center Honors

1998: Won Grammy for best opera recording

2003: Opened Jessye Norman School of the Arts in Augusta

2006: Recognized for lifetime achievements at Grammy Awards

2009: Georgia Music Hall of Fame

2010: Awarded National Medal of the Arts

List of Spingarn Medal Winners: 1915 to 2010