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Anna Julia Cooper was born Anna Julia Haywood on August 10, 1858, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Some sources say that she was born to a free woman and an enslaved father while other sources state that she was born to an enslaved woman and her master. Had she been born to a slave woman, then she too would have been born into bondage.
In 1867, Haywood enrolled at Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute. The institute was built with the purpose to educate former slaves. Several years after enrolling, she earned the equivalent to a high school diploma. In 1877, she married George A. G. Cooper, a teacher at Saint Augustine’s.
After her husband died two years later, Anna kept his last name, Cooper, and decided to continue her education. She attended Oberlin College in Ohio where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in 1884 and her Master’s degree in 1887.
Shortly thereafter, Cooper began her career as an educator at Wilberforce University and Saint Augustine’s. She then moved to Washington, D.C. in order to teach at Washington Colored High School.
In 1892, Cooper published her book, titled A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South. Her book demands equal education for women and argues that women are essential to uplifting the Black race. Her book is one of the earliest and most pivotal pieces of text in the formulation of Black feminism.
Her book–which was in fact, a collection of essays–gained national attention and propelled her career as a speaker. She began lecturing across the country, advocating for equal education opportunities, civil rights, and improving the status of Black women.
Focusing on civil rights, Cooper co-established the Colored Women’s League in 1892. In 1900, she served on the executive committee of the first Pan-African Conference. She also founded Black branches of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in order to assist Black migrants from the South.
In 1902, Cooper became the principal of M Street High School, formerly known as Washington Colored High. She integrated curriculum that prepped Black students for college. The Washington, D.C. school board declared her approach radical. She ultimately resigned in 1906.
In 1911, Cooper continued her education at Columbia University in New York City. She pursued her doctorate until 1915. She dropped out once her brother died in order to raise his five grandchildren. She resumed her graduate education in 1924 at the University of Paris in France. At 67 years old, Cooper became the fourth Black woman to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy.
Cooper retired from teaching in 1930. She then began working as the registrar at Frelinghuysen University, a school for Black adults. She worked there until the school closed in the 1950s. Anna Julia Cooper lived out the rest of her life in Washington, D.C. where she died on February 27, 1964. She was 105 years old.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer (Nikodemus Mwandishi) or We Buy Black. Thank you.**