Spencer and Anna Hogue were an average American couple. They married young, had steady jobs and provided themselves the best life their talents could produce.
Spencer and Anna established their lives in Alabama during the height of the Jim Crow Era. Being African American, they understood that providing a stable life for themselves would not come without its share of hardships.
Spencer worked as a sharecropper in his hometown of Marion. Since his education was limited, he couldn’t obtain a high-paying job and had to use his skills the best way he knew how.
Anna cleaned homes for white families around the town and often stayed in the house as a nanny for her boss’s children. This often left little time for her to be with her own children, but, like her husband, a limited education meant sparse job opportunities. This left her children partially having to raise themselves.
As the Civil Rights Movement grew throughout the Deep South during the 1960s, Spencer and Anna heeded the call to action.
Spencer marched with his eldest son across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and was imprisoned for two days after the event.
Anna didn’t march in public rallies but often sat in the front of the car when traveling to town with her white family and refused to sit in color-only sections when dining in restaurants. She often remarked, “I’m not afraid of white people, my rights are the exact same as the family I take care of.”
Spencer and Anna faced many dangers for living their lives in this brave fashion, but they understood these actions were not just beneficial for them, but also for their children.
As they grew older, they saw their children move across the country and start families of their own. Their youngest son Harold didn’t have the opportunity to get a proper education growing up, but he ensured that his children would end this cycle of marginalization.
The reason why this story is important is because Spencer and Anna were my grandparents and a part of the story that is America.
Black History Month is more than just watching a Civil Rights documentary in history class or regurgitating facts you learned in elementary school. It is about recognizing the work African Americans have done to better this nation and ensure that equality is available to all people.
My grandparents will probably never make it into the history books. Often times other pioneers won’t either, like Garret Morgan, the creator of the traffic light, Willie Mae “Big Momma” Thornton, the original singer of the song “Hound Dog,” or Otis Boykin, the inventor for the control unit of the pacemaker.
We can use Black History Month to praise heroes, known and unknown, and also to reflect on the contributions African Americans as a collective community, in conjunction with all of America, have done to create a more perfect union.
I’m thankful that these heroes let me stand on their shoulders, and I’m incredibly proud to carry on the Hogue legacy. Please remember this: their work wasn’t just for me — it was for all of us.
Take the time to review our collective history and see where we’ve come as a nation. This should happen every month of the year, but since we’ve got your attention now, use this time wisely.
It would mean the world to Spencer, Anna and all of the other unsung heroes to know that their sacrifices didn’t go unnoticed.
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