Anne Spencer - African American Trailblazers


Uploaded by LibraryofVa on 10.03.2009

Transcript:
You and I can look into a mirror all day long and not see ourselves.
Do you believe that?
I do.
To see ourselves truthfully it's one of the greatest challenges of life,
and yet
the act of discovering yourself
can be one of the great journeys in life.
If you create a painting,
a poem,
or a song,
and take a step back and look at it,
read it,
listen to it--
you'll discover something about yourself.
Anne Spencer believed in her heart
that the act of reflection
was the greatest way to open the doors of happiness.
Anne's tools were her pen and her trowel.
She advised her friends to seek out that place,
that one special place, where they can find solitude,
where they can write it all down,
think about it,
take a breath
and discover their purpose.
That's what Anne did.
In her flowering Lynchburg garden,
Anne Spencer inspired some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century
with her intellect,
her savvy,
and the poetry that painted that very picture of wisdom.
Born to a father who was once enslaved,
Anne Spencer used her mind to escape poverty, used her education to lift young
people of color and to promote equal rights.
Her incisive wit,
intellectual toughness,
and artistic determination
secured her a place in an exceptional group of writers,
thinkers,
artists, and Civil Rights leaders.
Her poetry defied the notion that a woman must live to serve a man.
This was not a position lightly taken in the early twentieth century.
Her message to women came in the form of a poem called
"Letter to my sister."
"It is dangerous for a woman to defy the gods,
to taunt them with the tounges thin tip,
or strut in the weakness of mere humanity,
or draw a line daring them to cross.
The gods owned the searing lightning,
the drowning waters
tormenting fears and anger of red sins. Oh but worse still if you mince,
timidly."
Ms. Spencer
wrote so delicately.
I had not seen her light before.
Then she wrote "Letter to my Sister."
It's so...
just.
I mean, it was it was personal and it was
to the point,
but it was still also delicate.
The Lynchburg home Anne and her husband Edward shared
became a detour for many Civil Rights leaders traveling from the North
to the South.
Together,
they challenged, inspired, and welcomed these travelers who comprised
three generations of readers and writers
of the movement to make African-Americans fully free.
Anne was an early champion of the NAACP.
She ran one of the first libraries devoted to serving young, black students.
Anne Spencer was raised to
have a belief in herself, and she was raised to consider herself as good as the next
person, and that
manifested itself and her
...
inability to
tolerate oppression on any level.
She would not stand for racial oppression in her personal life,
nor would she stand for it in her community.
She would not tolerate gender oppression. She would not tolerate being considered
a second-class citizen because she was a woman,
and she demanded those
freedoms. She demanded equality, and because she demanded it, she got it!
She tried to teach people that it didn't matter where you came from and who you are
in the color of your skin,
as long as you were trying to do something productive
and not harmful or destructive that you were positive person, and she tried to
teach everybody to be positive. Anne Spencer knew the idea of equality must be
followed by action.
When Anne Spencer determined that there was not equal access
to books for
African-Americans, she put a copy of James Weldon Johnson's "The New American
Negro" under her arm--she happened to have been published in that edition--
and put on her best red dress for business occasions,
and marched urself to the Jones Memorial Library
which was open only to whites,
and declared herself a published poet and suggested that she
open a library
for African-Americans. The Jones Memorial Library was available for
whites only, so they set up a branch at the black high school--Dunbar High School--
and she was a librarian there for twenty years.
Anne Spencer's inspiration, like the flowers she planted nearly a century ago,
still sends a strong message:
to truly understand yourself,
write it all down.