Marian Spencer, a civil rights leader and the first African American woman elected to the city council in Cincinnati, Ohio, is being recognized by having a dormitory on the campus of the University of Cincinnati named in her honor. Ironically, when Spencer was a student at the University of Cincinnati in the 1940s, she was not permitted to live in campus housing because of her race.
Spencer was born in 1920 in Gallipolis, Ohio. She lived with her grandfather who was a born a slave. As a child, she remembers watching the Ku Klux Klan parade in the street in front of her house.
Spencer joined the NAACP at the age of 13. She was the valedictorian of her high school class and earned a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Cincinnati in 1942.
Spencer became active in the civil rights movement and was a major figure in the fight to desegregate the city schools and parks. She was the first woman to chair the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP and in 1983 was elected to the city council. Spencer also served on the board of trustees of the University of Cincinnati.
The board of trustees recently announced that the university’s new high-rise residence hall on Campus Green will be known as Marian Spencer Hall.
Below is a video of Marian Spencer discussing her life story. More information is available in the book Keep on Fighting: The Life and Civil Rights Legacy of Marian A. Spencer (Ohio University Press, 2015).