Speaking out and standing up: Marian Spencer battles for civil rights across the decades

'Mrs. Spencer is all class'

CINCINNATI -- As a young African-American girl growing up in rural southeast Ohio during the 1920s, Marian Spencer remembers the lessons her family taught her about what was important.

Spencer’s family owned Alexander’s General and Hardware Store in Gallipolis. She lived above the shop on the second floor with her parents, two brothers and a twin sister, Mildred.

Located across the railroad tracks on the “Negro side” of the small river town, the store was a gathering place for African-American residents and, more importantly, a polling place during elections.

“The thing I always remember is when I was a young girl looking through the crack in the wall, down into the first level of the house where the grocery was, watching people go in to vote,” said Spencer, who will turn 94 in June.

“My father turned his store over to voting whenever there was an election,” she said.

Her family’s trailblazing spirit carried on with Spencer, who moved to Cincinnati in 1938 to attend college.

Over the years, Spencer would become a pioneer for civil rights in the Queen City.

WCPO Insiders can read the full profile of Spencer's fight for equality.

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