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Street Renamed In Honor Of Civil Rights Leader Marian Spencer

At 95 years old, civil rights icon Marian Spencer jokes that she'll "turn over in her grave if God doesn't give me 100."
At 95 years old, civil rights icon Marian Spencer jokes that she'll "turn over in her grave if God doesn't give me 100."

When her children were denied entry to Coney Island in the 1950s because of their skin color, Marian Spencer stood outside the gates and demanded change. Her subsequent lawsuit led to the park's desegregation.

She didn't back down then, and the words "keep on fighting" have best described her ever since.

Now at 95 years old, the City of Cincinnati is honoring Spencer by renaming a portion of Walnut St. between Theodore Berry Way and Second St., Marian Spencer Way.

Council Member Wendell Young introduced the name change legislation. He remembers his parents explaining why he, a young "colored" boy at the time, couldn't go swimming at Coney Island.

"I had the experience of watching several people, among them Mrs. Marian Spencer, demonstrate in front of Coney Island for the sole purpose of making that place accessible to everyone regardless of race, creed or color. From that moment on, Mrs. Marian Spencer was always someone I paid attention to," Young says. 

"Whether it was working on civil rights, whether it was helping to desegregate the public schools in the City of Cincinnati, whether it was equal housing, whether it was becoming the first woman to head the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP, whether it was becoming the first African-American female elected to Cincinnati City Council who went on to then be vice mayor, no matter what she did, it was always something that advanced the city."

Young says Spencer's contributions to the city make the decision to honor her with a street an easy one.

Council members and the mayor took turns praising Spencer. Council Member Yvette Simpson says she stands on Spencer's shoulders and "without you, there is no me." She thanked Spencer for teaching her how to fight.

"Because that's how she integrated Coney Island," Simpson says. "That's how she made changes when she was on this council, along with other amazing women who were on that council at that time."

Spencer spoke briefly, thanking Council for the honor and saying she was grateful to be able to  be there to receive it when most people her age would be at home knitting.

"I never found it completely sufficient just to knit," said Spencer.

"Being here was quite an honor," she added referring to her time on Council.

Click on the links below to learn more about Marian Spencer's life and achievements.

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