Black Poetry Day is on October 17th, and Lynchburg claims one of the most eclectic and gifted poets of the Harlem Renaissance era. At 1313 Pierce Street, you will find The Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum, which was once home to the internationally acclaimed black poet, Anne Spencer.
Born in 1882, Spencer grew up on a Virginia farm in Henry County and did not receive any education until she was eleven years old. At that time she was enrolled into the Virginia Theological Seminary and College (now Virginia University of Lynchburg) and was barely literate. She then graduated 6 years later, delivering the valedictory address. She met her husband, Edward Alexander Spencer, while in school.The two married in 1901 and then moved into the house that Edward built for them at 1313 Pierce Street two years later. It is here where Spencer made history.
A Remarkable Woman
Spencer was a gifted poet and important figure in the Harlem Renaissance despite her distance from New York. In her lifetime, she had more than thirty of her poems published and she helped to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Through the forming of the Lynchburg chapter of the NAACP, she was able to form several close friendships with Harlem Renaissance writers, such as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson and W.E.B. Du Bois. Spencer was also the only black w\oman and the only Virginian included in the Norton Anthology of Modern American and British Poetry in 1973.
But she was more than just a prominent poet. For 20 years she served as the librarian for the all-black Dunbar High School. She strived to enrich the lives of the students she helped by sharing books within her own home library as well as ones provided by the all-white Jones Memorial Library. She also was a civil rights activist and contributed a lot of her time to serving on local committees in hopes on improving the legal, social and economic aspects of the lives of African Americans.
She was also a gardener, which is just one of the things you can enjoy when you visit the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum. In the garden, her husband built her a writing cottage, affectionately named Edankrall (combining Edward, Anne and the Afrikaan word for enclosure, kraal). Here she would seek refuge to write her poetry of religion, race and the natural world. The house and garden were designated a Virginia Historic Landmark in 1976, as well as a Friends of the Library USA Literary Landmark, and a Historic Landmark by the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History.
The Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum
What better way to celebrate Black Poetry Day than visiting the beautiful home of this remarkable woman? You’ll be marveled by the beauty of the house and the garden where she spent so much of her time contributing to the bettering of our society. You can visit the garden from dawn to dusk every day at no charge. To visit the museum and cottage, you will want to make sure to schedule a tour.