Born on February 6th, 1882, Anne Spencer had to witness the breakup of her parents at age 5, and attended an all white school until 1893. She was then transferred to a boarding school, where she began writing. After graduating at the top of her class she married Edward Spencer.
Anne Spencer was on of the few women writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance, or at least one of the few to be published. She did not actually live in Harlem, but rather lived with her husband in Lynchburg, Virginia. Her home came to be a sort of resting point for travelers such as Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, and James Weldon Johnson. Johnson went on to publish five of her poems in his 1922 anthology, “The Book of American Negro Poetry”. He was also one of the biggest influences on her life, encouraging her to seek publication of her work.
Anne Spencer was not one to accept social roles quietly. She had a reputation for standing up to those who tried to infringe upon the rights of African-Americans. She applied for a job at an all-white library in 1923, and got the job by demonstrating her deep knowledge of literature. She kept the job for 22 years.
When she married and moved with her husband in 1901, he built her a magnificent garden with a cottage where she could be alone with her thoughts and writer her poems. Her garden was her hideaway and sanctuary, her place for learning and writing. After her husband died in 1964, the garden began to die, and Anne spent little of her time there. She herself died in 1975, and most of her poems were finally published 2 years later. The following poem is a beautiful example of Spencer’s work.
“God never planted a garden,
But he placed a keeper there;
And the keeper ever razed the ground,
And built a city where;
God cannot walk at the eve of day,
Nor take the morning air.”