Educator and pioneer of civil and women’s rights, Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was the fourth Black woman in U.S. history to earn a Ph.D. Her life exemplified commitment to education, women’s rights, racial uplift, and social transformation.
Born into slavery, Cooper was educated and later served as an instructor at St. Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute. After receiving her MA from Oberlin College, Cooper was hired in 1891 to teach at M Street High School in Washington, D.C.; she was named principal in 1902.
While at M Street, Cooper wrote her book A Voice From the South: By a Woman From the South (1892), considered to be a pioneering Black feminist text. In this work, Cooper explored Black women’s racial and gender oppression, education, self-determination, literary representations of Blackness, and voting rights for all women.
Although M Street graduates were successful in obtaining admission to prestigious colleges and universities, the D.C. board of education denied Cooper’s principal reappointment when she refused to lower academic standards for her students. She remained at M Street as an instructor, however.
- Cooper, A. J. (1998). The voice of Anna Julia Cooper: Including A Voice From the South and other important essays, papers, and letters. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
- Johnson, K. (2000). Uplifting the women and the race: The lives, educational philosophies and social activism of Anna Julia Cooper and Nannie Helen Burroughs. New York: Routledge.
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