Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with Phillys7thWard.org and Citizen Ed, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer. But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month…February is just the Blackest.
Today, our featured Black Educator is Dr. Anna Julia Cooper.
Anna J. Cooper was an eduactivist born on August 10, 1858 in North Carolina. She rose from enslavement to be known as an educator and one of the most prominent scholars in American history.
At the age of nine, Dr. Cooper received a scholarship and began her education at the newly opened Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute in Raleigh, founded by the local Episcopal diocese for the purpose of training teachers to educate the formerly enslaved and their families.
Dr. Cooper distinguished herself as a bright and ambitious student who showed equal promise in both liberal arts and analytical disciplines such as mathematics and science; her subjects included languages (Latin, French, Greek), English literature, math, and science. Upon graduation from the school, she remained at the institution as an instructor, where she taught higher English, modern history and instructional music.
Dr. Cooper also met and married her husband at St. Augustine’s. Unfortunately, her husband died two years later, after which Dr. Cooper attended Oberlin College where she earned both her B.A. and M.A. degrees. While engaged in her studies, Dr. Cooper taught at Wilberforce University and once again at St. Augustine’s. After she graduated, Dr. Cooper moved to Washington D.C.
In Washington D.C., along with Ida B. Wells, Charlotte Forten Grimké, Mary Jane Peterson, Mary Church Terrell, and Evelyn Shaw, Dr. Cooper formed the Colored Women’s League; dedicated to unity, progress and the best interest of Black people. Also, Dr. Cooper taught Latin at the famed Dunbar High School, where she’d become principal of the school.
Dr. Cooper would later receive her Ph.D. from the University of Paris after pausing her doctoral studies at Columbia due to the death of her brother and her raising his 5 grandchildren.
In addition, Dr. Cooper would create written works including A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South, which advocated for the equal education of women that educated Black women were necessary for the Black community to thrive.
Examining Cooper’s life as an activist-educator reveals the multi-contextual realities and contested terrains of a highly educated, outspoken, socially committed Black woman during the late Victorian and early progressive eras. Nevertheless Dr. Cooper is an example to Black girls that resistance is only meant to make you stronger.
Anna J. Cooper; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.
For more information on Anna J. Cooper, visit the following site.