Anne Spencer was a poet, civil rights activist, teacher, and gardener. Born in Henry County, Virginia, Anne graduated from the Virginia Theological Seminary and College (now Virginia University of Lynchburg) in 1899. While there, Anne met her husband, Edward Alexander Spencer, Lynchburg’s first parcel postman and a construction and business entrepreneur. They married in 1901 and in 1903 Edward built their Queen Anne style home at 1313 Pierce Street in Lynchburg.
Anne’s poetry focused on themes of race, feminism, and nature. Most of her works were published in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance – connecting her to the movement despite her living in Virginia. She was the first African American woman to be published in the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry in 1973. Together with her husband, Anne opened a chapter of the NAACP in Lynchburg, welcoming African American guests, dignitaries, and travelers to their home, as segregation laws barred them from hotels.
A small cottage built in Spencer’s garden, called Edankraal for “Edward,” “Anne,” and “kraal,” (the Afrikaans word for enclosure), was where she did most of her writing, and the garden was a common subject of her poems. One of her most notable works, “White Things,” forges connections between male domination, white supremacy, and the destruction of nature. The garden was also the setting for many discussions among other African American writers and civil rights activists, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Following her death in 1975, the Spencer House and Garden was designated a Virginia Historic Landmark and was developed into a museum. The property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.