Marian Spencer: A Social Justice Icon

By Gabriela Godinez

Marian Spencer died on July 10th, 2019 at the age of 99. She was born on June 28th, 1920, a granddaughter to a former slave. Spencer dedicated her life to fighting injustices and inequality in Cincinnati. Since her youth she had been educating herself on how to push for a better and more equal society, having joined the NAACP at just the age of 13. She would later become the first female president of the NAACP Cincinnati chapter. A leader by nature, she would also become the first African American woman to be elected into city council.

As a social justice icon, she taught us to be brave. She taught us to do what is right even when it seems impossible, and she did so leading by example. In a heavily racist Cincinnati in the 1950’s, Spencer battled with Coney Island and desegregated the park and pool.

Among other awards she received the YWCA Career Woman of Achievement Award, as well as the Humanitarian Award from the Freedom Heritage foundation of Columbus, Ohio. While her work and achievements were recognized and awarded, we as Cincinnatians could never truly thank her enough.

Marian Spencer speaking at a rally with Josh Spring fighting for women experiencing poverty.

She fought against racism and other injustices until the very end of her time on earth. Director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition says, “Mrs. Marian Spencer embodied strength and resoluteness. She demanded respect, acted and spoke with conviction. Whether at city budget hearings or rallying against Western and Southern as they worked to steal the Anna Louise Inn and remove women experiencing poverty from their midst, it was powerful and encouraging to know we were on the same side with Mrs. Marian Spencer.”

We as a society still have a long way to go, but the path to justice would be much longer without Marian Spencer’s work. We have to continue her work, and she even told us so. In an interview with WCPO she says, “if I’m 6 feet under and something is going wrong up here, I’m gonna say, 'now you all get busy- you’ve been quiet too long.'”

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