The NAACP Image Awards, one of the most anticipated annual events celebrating Black excellence, left many people scratching their heads when Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, received the President’s Award during the 53rd annual show on Saturday, Feb. 26.
Hosted by its namesake organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the awards are usually given to Black entertainers, activists, and allies of the Black community in the arts, business, public service, philanthropy, and more.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson said the royal couple received the award for their “unwavering commitment to making an impact” through the work they are doing to advance racial justice and equity at their Archewell Foundation.
Meghan, whose mother Doria Ragland is Black, said the couple was “proud” and “humbled” to be recipients of the award and her mother was in the audience.
“It’s inspiring to think about the legacy of the Image Awards, which began shortly after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed into law,” Meghan said. “Today, we can continue that legacy by re-establishing federal voting protections in our country and fulfilling the work of civil rights giants, like the late John Lewis.”
“We are so deeply humbled to be here in the company of so many illustrious awardees,” she added.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex both wore attire by Black designers to the NAACP Image Awards and Prince Harry shared his wife’s sentiment.
“I also echo the immense gratitude for tonight – both for this award and to this community for welcoming me so warmly,” Prince Harry said. “I think it’s safe to say that I come from a very different background than my incredible wife yet our lives were brought together for a reason. We share a commitment to a life of service, a responsibility to combat injustice and a belief that the most often overlooked are the most important to listen to.”
The couple also voiced their support for the “people of Ukraine.” Meghan expounded on the work they do with Archewell, a Beverly Hills, California-based public organization they founded in 2020.
“And I couldn’t be prouder that we’re doing this work together. We moved to California, my home state, shortly before the murder of George Floyd. For Black America, those nine minutes and 29 seconds transcended time, invoking centuries of our unhealed wounds.” Meghan said. “In the months that followed, as my husband and I spoke with the civil rights community, we committed ourselves and our organization, Archewell, to illuminating those who are advancing racial justice and progress.”
Black Twitter lit up in response to the news. Some asked why the Sussexes deserved the award, while others noted their philanthropic and advocacy efforts. In 2020, the couple called out the British empire, noting it should confront its racist past.
This isn’t the first time the NAACP has come under fire for its choice of an award recipient. In 2014, the NAACP selected Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for its lifetime achievement award. In April 2014, Sterling was banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million by the league after private recordings of him making racist comments went public.
Photo: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry pose for pictures after visiting the observatory in One World Trade in New York, Sept. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)