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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,
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.