August 10 - Happy Birthday, Anna Julia Cooper

Posted on August 10, 2018

Wait - today's famous birthday is one of the most prominent African-American scholars in history, and I've never even heard of her?

Despite decades of Black History Month!!

I guess teachers were too busy repeating the short-short list of great black people in U.S. history (you know, F. Douglass, H. Tubman, G. W. Carver, R. Parks, M. L. King, Jr., all of whom are definitely worthy of our time and interest!) to include the vast number of black people who are ALSO worthy of our time and interest!

Anna Julia Cooper was a lot of things: 

An author.

An educator.

A sociologist.

A speaker.

A Black Liberationist activist.

As well as a scholar.

Cooper was born into enslavement, on this date in 1858, and she was freed by the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. When she was nine years old she received a scholarship to attend St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute, a school started for freed slaves. 

Hooray for access to education!

BUT... St. Augustine had a "track" for girls and women. It was called the "Ladies' Course." And the school administration actively worked against women taking high-level courses. Cooper had to fight for her right to take the "men's" courses.

Cooper covered some of her costs by tutoring other students and eventually teaching at St. Augustine. She'd married a young man enrolled at St. Augustine, but he died just two years into the marriage, and it was much more acceptable for a single woman or a widow to work outside the home than it was for a married woman to do so.

Cooper went on to study at colleges and she - at age 65! - earned her PhD at the University of Paris-Sorbonne. She was the fourth African-American woman in history to earn a doctorate - and her doctorate was, itself, for her study of history.

One of Cooper's books, A Voice from the South, is considered one of the first expressions of black feminism, and Cooper's many speeches, papers, and books are important contributions to our understanding of race and gender. 

A quote from Anna Julia Cooper appeared
on all U.S. passports printed in 2016.

One might think that a huge reason for Cooper's achievements was that she wasn't kept busy raising children - but she adopted her half brother's FIVE children when they were orphaned! 

Also, one might think that Cooper was really old to be earning a doctorate at age 65 - but she still had a lot of life in her at that age - since she lived to be 105!

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