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Cincinnati unveils statue honoring civil rights pioneer Marian Spencer

Cincinnati's first statue honoring a woman
Marian Spencer statue unveil
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Posted at 8:36 AM, Jun 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-27 20:15:31-04

CINCINNATI — A statue of civil rights pioneer Marian Spencer was formally unveiled along Cincinnati's riverfront Sunday, after the pandemic

The pandemic delayed its reveal in Smale Park, but the statue was finally uncovered Sunday evening. The statue stands, circled by a partial wall carved with some of her most famous words: “Be smart, be polite, vote and keep on fighting.”

The statue of Spencer is Cincinnati's very first statue honoring a woman.

"For those of us who got to know and work with Marian it was a living reminder of the good, the bad, the promise and ultimately the hope for a better future and a better today," said John Cranley, Cincinnati mayor, at the reveal event Sunday evening.

Spencer was Cincinnati's first Black female city councilmember and the first Black woman to serve as vice mayor; she was best known for her fight to integrate Coney Island and its swimming pool in the ‘50s and for her fight to desegregate Cincinnati Public Schools.

Alice Schneider, chair of the Marian A. Spencer Statue Committee proposed adding the statue to the riverfront in 2019, before Spencer died at the age of 99 in July 2019.

“We want Marian to be an example to people. Marian was a good example of, ‘Hey we've gotta get things done, we're persistent til we do,’ and I think that's a good message to get out," Schneider said.

Sunday would have been Spencer's 101st birthday.

The statue shows Spencer with two children: The young girl is a composite of the four Winton Hills Academy students who created a book about Spencer's life; The little boy is wearing a Reds ball cap and a t-shirt that reads "Keep on fighting," -- one of Spencer's favorite sayings.

It's designed to be interactive -- people can pose for pictures and join hands with the children in the statue.