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Frances (Fanny) Jackson Coppin was born on this date in 1837. She was a Black school principal, church and civic leader, and one of the leading Black women educators of the nineteenth century.
Frances Jackson was born a slave in Washington, D.C., in 1837, the daughter of a mixed couple. An aunt purchased her freedom when she was 12 years old and sent her to live with another aunt in New Bedford, Massachusetts. They moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Coppin became a domestic servant, and used her salary to hire a private tutor three hours a week. After briefly attending the segregated Newport public schools and Rhode Island State Normal School, she moved to Ohio to attend Oberlin College in 1860.
In 1863, while still a student, she founded a night school for newly freed slaves who were migrating to Ohio during the Civil War. Her reputation as an educator spread, and when she graduated from Oberlin in 1865, she was hired as president of the girls division of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia (later Cheyney State College). Four years later, Coppin became principal of the school. Coppin also reached out to the larger community. She wrote a regular column on women’s issues for the Christian Recorder. Coppin was a vice president of the National Association of Colored Women.
In 1881, she married the Reverend Levi Coppin and accompanied him to his post as bishop of the AME church in Cape Town, South Africa. The Jacksons returned to the United States in 1904 and settled in Philadelphia. Coppin had almost completed her autobiography when she died at her Philadelphia home in 1913. Her funeral was attended by thousands of people, and memorial services were held for her in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.