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*On this date, in 1858, Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was born. She was a Black educator and activist.
The daughter of a slave woman and her master, Anne Cooper, was from Raleigh, NC. She acquired her love for education from the work environment of her mother’s housemaid place of employment. Cooper attended Barber-Scotia School and said that “not far from kindergarten age,” she had decided to be a teacher.
Cooper pursued her dream from St. Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute in Raleigh to Sorbonne in Paris. In 1877, while at St Augustine’s, she met and eventually married George A. C. Cooper. They worked tirelessly together with many common interests, yet he died two years later.
At twenty-one, Cooper was alone; she headed to Oberlin, Ohio, in 1881, graduating from Oberlin College in 1884. While there, Cooper began to see herself as a defender of her race and an advocate of Black women. “Not the boys less, but the girls more” is a phrase she would use repeatedly as she addressed critical issues in her conversations, speeches, and writings. She taught and headed the Modern Languages Department at Wilberforce University, and in 1887, joined the faculty of M Street (now Dunbar H. S.) and was principal in 1901.
Cooper was the only woman elected to the esoteric American Negro Academy founded in 1897 and became the fourth Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in 1925. When Frelinghuysen University was founded in Washington D. C. in 1907, it was a nontraditional group of schools to be a beacon of hope for “colored working people,” Cooper was installed as its second president in 1930.
Anna Cooper was versatile, with well-argued ideas and diversity of thought. Her published works, lectures, poems, and writings demonstrate this best. Tirelessly dedicated, she did not stop working until she was eighty-four. Anna Cooper died at 105 on February 27th, 1964.