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Marian Spencer was a trailblazing civil rights activist who brought change to her native Cincinnati, becoming an important political figure as well. Spencer passed earlier this week.

Spencer was born June 28, 1920 in Gallipolis, Ohio, living in the home of her grandfather, a former slave, with her parents and siblings. A stellar student, she entered the University of Cincinnati alongside her sister on an academic scholarship, graduating in 1942. In 1940, she married Donald Spencer, a teacher and real state broker, raising two sons in the city. Alongside her husband, the pair fought for racial integration on the university’s campus via the arts.

Her public foray into activism began in 1952 after Spencer and her sons were turned away from the Coney Island amusement park in Cincinnati by a guard brandishing a gun. Spencer brought a lawsuit against the park and won; successfully desegregating the park. This would be the start of several desegregation efforts including the city’s schools, housing, and other areas.

A member of the NAACP since she was a teenager, Spencer was named the first woman president of the organization’s Cincinnati chapter in 1981. In 1983, she was elected to the Cincinnati City Council, becoming the first Black woman to do so. Spencer’s husband passed in 2010 at the age of 95 after 69 years of marriage.

Marian Spencer was 99.

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