Anne Spencer

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For other people named Anne Spencer, see Anne Spencer (disambiguation).
Anne Spencer
Anne Bethel Spencer in her wedding dress.jpg
Anne Bethel Spencer in her wedding dress, 1900
Born Annie Bethel Bannister
(1882-02-06)February 6, 1882
Henry County, Virginia
Died July 27, 1975(1975-07-27)
Lynchburg, Virginia
Alma mater Virginia Seminary
Genre poetry
Literary movement Harlem Renaissance
View of study, Anne Spencer House, Lynchburg, Virginia

Annie Bethel Spencer (better known as Anne Spencer) (February 6, 1882, Henry County, Virginia – July 27, 1975, Lynchburg, Virginia) was an American poet and active participant in the New Negro Movement and Harlem Renaissance period.

Anne was the first Virginian and first African-American to have her poetry included in the Norton Anthology of American Poetry. Also an activist for equality and educational opportunities for all, she hosted such dignitaries as Langston Hughes, Marian Anderson, George Washington Carver, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Weldon Johnson, and W. E. B. Du Bois.



The only child of Joel Cephus Bannister and Sarah Louise Scales, Anne Spencer was born Annie Bethel Bannister in Henry County, Virginia on February 6, 1882. Her parents separated while Annie was very young, and she moved with her mother to West Virginia, where she was placed under the care of William T. Dixie, a prominent member of the black community. Sarah noticed her daughter’s quick abilities with the English language and sent her to the Virginia Seminary, where she graduated in 1899. Also in this year, she met her husband, Charles Edward Spencer, whom she married on May 15, 1901[citation needed]. The celebrated Harlem Renaissance poet James Weldon Johnson helped to discover Annie’s talent as a poet, and also gave her the pen name of Anne Spencer[citation needed].[1]


From 1903 until her death in 1975, Anne Spencer lived and worked in a home at 1313 Pierce Street in Lynchburg, VA. As an adult, Anne's poetry grew in popularity and meaning. The Harlem Renaissance allowed her to meet people like herself, who inspired her poetry through their ideas and artwork and eventually led to her work being published. Johnson and De Bois were regular visitors at her house and would often spend the day in deep conversation discussing everything from art to politics. They all shared similar likes and dislikes and were all strong, independent thinkers. Anne became more and more involved in her local community and the NAACP. Although most of her poems remain reflections of her own ideas and thoughts, hints of influence from her work with the Harlem Renaissance began to show. Anne also tutored Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy, in English during his stay in Lynchburg. Aside from her involvement in her community, Anne’s most important role was that of mother. Together, she and Edward lovingly raised their three children — Bethel, Alroy, and Chauncey Spencer.

Some of her letters are held at Yale University. She was included in the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. After its 1923 publication in the Crisis, "White Things" was never reprinted during her lifetime. Nevertheless, its impact was such that Keith Clark, in Notable Black American Women, referred to it as "the quintessential `protest' poem." [2]

Anne Spencer House Museum and Garden[edit]

Anne Spencer lived and worked in a home on 1313 Pierce Street in Lynchburg, VA from 1903 until her death in 1975. The local chapter of the NAACP was founded from her home. A garden and a one-room retreat, where Anne did much of her writing, are also part of the property. Her papers are held at the Anne Spencer House, Lynchburg, VA.[3][4]

Archive and Personal Library[edit]

Anne Spencer's papers, related family papers, and books from her personal library reside at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.


  • Times Unfading Garden: Anne Spencer’s Life and Poetry (1977).
  • Afro-American Women Writers 1746-1933: An Anthology and Critical Guide (1989) Shockley, Ann Allen, New Haven, Connecticut: Meridian Books ISBN 0-452-00981-2
  • With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman, Thurman, Howard. Chicago:Harvest/HBJ Book, 1981. ISBN 0-15-697648-X
  • Anne Spencer: Ah, how poets sing and die!, Spencer, Anne. Ed. Nina V. Salmon. Lynchburg: Warwick House Publishing, 2001
  • Shadowed Dreams: Women's Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, Rutgers; 2 Rev Exp edition (October 25, 2006). ISBN 0-8135-3886-


External links[edit]