"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Anna Julia Cooper

"It is not the intelligent woman v. the ignorant woman; nor the white woman v. the black, the brown, and the red, it is not even the cause of woman v. man. Nay, tis womans strongest vindication for speaking that the world needs to hear her voice."

Anna Julia Haywood was born in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 10, 1858 to Hannah Stanley Haywood, an enslaved woman, and George Washington Haywood, her master. She attended St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute, an elementary and teachers' training school in Raleigh, where she battled to take the courses usually reserved for boys.

After graduation she married George Cooper, a Bahamian-born Greek instructor, who passed away two years later. She then enrolled in Ohio's Oberlin College, again insisting on taking the "gentleman's course", graduating in 1884. She taught briefly, then returned to Oberlin to earn a master's degree in mathematics in 1887. She then was hired to teach math and science at M Street High School in Washington, DC, later known as Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School, and became principal in 1902.

Cooper began coursework on her doctorate at Columbia University in 1914, while continuing her duties at M Street and after the death of her brother raising his five grandchildren. She transferred to the University of Paris Sorbonne, receiving her degree in 1925 at the age of 64 and becoming only the fourth African American woman to earn a doctorate. She continued working at M Street until her retirement in 1930, and then became president of Frelinghuysen University, a night school for working people. She stepped down as president in 1940, but served as registrar for another 10 years.

Cooper's only book, A Voice from the South: By a Woman from the South, published in 1892, established her as the first African American feminist. She was a speaker at the World's Congress of Representative Women at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair to a primarily white audience, saying "I speak for the colored women of the South, because it is there that the millions of blacks in this country have watered the soil with blood and tears, and it is there too that the colored woman of America has made her characteristic history, and there her destiny is evolving." She was also one of the few female speakers at the 1900 First Pan African Conference in London organized by W. E. B. DuBois.

Cooper founded the Colored Women's League of Washington in 1892, and was instrumental in starting YWCA chapters for African American women. She also helped to organize the first chapter of Campfire Girls. She died  on February 27, 1964 at the age of 105.

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