- Barbara McCaskill
and muse and confidante to Harlem Renaissance intellectuals and literati. Anne Spencer was born inauspiciously on a Virginia plantation. Yet the combination of loving, though irreconcilable, parents and an unorthodox, isolated youth formed her extraordinary independence, introspection, and conviction.
Her father, Joel Cephus Bannister of African American white and Native American descent and her mother Sarah Louise Scales the mulatta daughter of a slaveholder separated when Spencer was six While her mother worked as an itinerant cook Spencer roomed with foster parents in Bramwell West Virginia where no other black children lived In insular and parochial Bramwell she was groomed for the African American bourgeoisie Her mother dressed her in the finest frocks she could afford and withheld her from an outlying school that enrolled working class children until she could attend Lynchburg s Virginia Seminary with socially suitable African American students Spencer entered the seminary at age eleven ...
A version of this article originally appeared in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature.