Anna Julia Cooper
Black Heritage Series
Issue Date: June 11, 2009
City: Washington, DC
Born into slavery in North Carolina, Anna Julia Cooper rose from bleak beginnings to become a leading African American teacher and activist.
Cooper (1858-1964) was never willing to accept “her place.” Early on, she insisted on the right to take courses reserved only for men. She went on to earn a master’s degree in mathematics, a significant accomplishment for a woman at that time, let alone a person of color.
After graduation, Cooper became a teacher at an all black school. She worked tirelessly to add advanced classes and raise money for scholarships. While she was a school principal in Washington, D.C., she fought against a congressional bill that would reduce the education of African Americans to vocational training. Her activism helped defeat the bill, but it also got her fired.
A skilled and persuasive speaker, Cooper used her gift to fight discrimination and to advocate higher education for women. Her book, A Voice from the South by a Black Woman from the South, is considered the first work on African American Feminism.
One of the most influential African American women in U.S. history, Anna Julia Cooper died at the age of 105 – just one year after Rev. Martin Luther King led his march on the capital.