The Poet And Gardener Who Became A Harlem Renaissance Legend

Anne Spencer House in Lynchburg, VA
Via Wikimedia Commons
Shonda Buchanan
October 14, 2020

She was a gardener, a librarian, a poet, and a wife. She loved language and nature. But how could a quiet woman like her help her impoverished students, struggling with an under-resourced library? And the Black community in general, suffering from discrimination and violence?

Anne Spencer wrote two important letters.

The first letter, requesting books for her library, was met with silence. But Dunbar High School library ONLY had THREE books! This was an outrage. The racist school district officials refused her, so she raided her own bookshelves.

What about the second letter? A knock on the door changed her life.

James Weldon Johnson, the famous Harlem Renaissance poet and president of the NAACP, stood there, hat in hand, answering her passionate letter for help to found an NAACP chapter in her town! She led him through her immaculate garden. 

Her life was about to change. How?

Johnson published her poems in The Crisis and helped her open the NAACP chapter.

Her home and garden became a haven for helping Black public figures, artists, and politicians travel safely through the treacherous, segregated South.

Writing became her weapon to change her community! Like Anne Spencer, we can use language to not only challenge the system but to make the world safer for our people.

How are you using your gifts to better your community?

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