Marian A. Spencer

Marian A. Spencer Endowed Scholarship

Facilitated by Dot Christenson

Marian Alexander Spencer, born in June 1920, granddaughter of a slave, was from the small town of Gallipolis, Ohio. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 1942, when African Americans were not allowed to live in the dormitories or attend classes at the Colleges of Music, Medicine, or Engineering, she is credited with the integration of the entire campus by 1950. In 1975 she became the first Black woman on the University Board of Trustees. Today, Marian Spencer Hall is an integrated dormitory on campus housing ten Spencer Scholars a year on full scholarships in addition to 300 other students. Spencer had a long list of “firsts” including integration of all YWCA swimming pools, cafeterias, and summer camps across the country in 1950; integrating Cincinnati’s Coney Island Entertainment Park in 1952; first Black candidate for the Cincinnati school board in 1974; first Black woman elected to Cincinnati City Council, where she served as Vice Mayor in 1984, the first woman president of the Cincinnati chapter of NAACP, and many more.
Marian married Donald Spencer in 1940 while she was still a student. Together the two became known as Mr. and Mrs. Civil Rights of Cincinnati. The street on the East side of the National Underground Railroad Museum is named Marian Spencer Way. The West Side is named for Rosa Parks. Marian’s story is an inspiration to all interested in racial struggles throughout the 20th century. Her lifetime theme was Be Smart, Be Polite, and Vote! She died shortly after her 99th birthday in 2019. For more information see her biography: Keep on Fighting: The Life and Civil Rights Legacy of Mary A. Spencer, by Dorothy Christenson.