Vibrant Lives. Vibrant Stories.
Bettie Spencer Anderson, 1867-1948
This biography was originally released on August 17, 2021 as a part of our on going series titled: Vibrant Lives. Vibrant Stories.
Written by the Staff of The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission
Mrs. Anderson was born in Lynchburg, Virginia a few years after the Civil War ended. Little is known about her early life, but she attended and graduated from the Hampton Institute. With her degree, she became an elementary school teacher until her marriage in 1893 to Mack G. Anderson. The couple moved north to New York City shortly after and had four children.
In 1908, the family relocated to Buffalo where Mr. Anderson established the Manhattan Hotel—Buffalo’s first black hotel. Mr. Anderson was the proprietor of the men’s-only hotel, which consisted of 31 guest rooms, a café, a bar, and a billiards room. It was located at 466 Michigan Street, near William Street, the hotel was a staple of the African American community in the Michigan Street Corridor.
Mrs. Bettie Spencer Anderson. Courtesy of the Uncrowned Queens Institute.
With her husband running a successful business, Mrs. Anderson became heavily involved in the nearby Michigan Street Baptist Church, which became a meeting place for prominent civil rights activists W.E.B. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, and Mary B. Talbert. The latter becoming a close friend of Mrs. Anderson.
Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Talbert had quite a bit in common to bond over. Both had been successful teachers who gave up their profession to marry and both were dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement. Together, Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Talbert sponsored youth programs and taught Sunday School. When Mrs. Talbert formed the Phyllis Wheatley Club of Buffalo, Mrs. Anderson was one of the early members to join her.
Mrs. Anderson was elected as the Michigan Street Baptist Church clerk and served in that office from 1922-1943. In the early thirties, she became a member of the Deaconess Board.
Over the years, Mrs. Anderson witnessed many of her loved ones become ill. This prompted her to become the first minority person to enroll in the American Red Cross Home Nursing course, for which she received certification. She was able to assist local patients in their homes until her health began to decline.
Mrs. Anderson died in 1948 at the age of 81.
"Phyllis Wheatley Club, Buffalo, New York” between 1911 and 1923, possibly 1913. Photographed in front of the Michigan Street Baptist Church.
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