Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, 1858-1964
A lifelong educator and activist, Dr. Anna J. Cooper was born into slavery in Raleigh, North Carolina. Following the death of her husband in 1877, she attended Oberlin College in Ohio, the first coeducational institution in America. There, she received a bachelor’s degree, and in 1887, a master’s degree in mathematics. After assuming teaching roles at all-Black colleges in Ohio and North Carolina, and a Black high school in the nation’s capital, Dr. Cooper published her first book, A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South, in 1892. This early Black feminist work promoted equal education for all women, and voiced education as essential for African American women for advancing the cause for Black civil rights. She further asserted that each race was capable of making special contributions to the progress of humanity. In 1892, she co-founded the Colored Women’s League to promote civil rights for African Americans. At age 67 in 1925, after attending Columbia and the University of Paris, she became the fourth African American woman to be awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Dr. Cooper closed her life of service as president, then registrar, of the all-Black Frelinghuysen University in Washington, D.C.