Frederick Douglass Day 2020:Anna Julia Cooper

Douglass Day is a holiday that began around the turn of the 20th century. After the passing of Frederick Douglass in 1895, Black communities across the U.S. gathered to celebrate his birthday every year on February 14th.

Scholarly Readings About Anna Julia Cooper

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (1858-1964)


Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was a author, educator, sociologist and Black Liberation activist that championed education for Black women.

Anna was born enslaved in 1858 in Raleigh, NC.  Her mother was Hannah Stanley and her father was her owner, George Washington Haywood.  She started school at St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute in 1867 where she received the equivalent of a high school education.  In 1877, she married George A.G. Cooper who taught Theology at St. Augustine but who died two years later.  After her husband died in 1879, Anna decided to pursue a college degree.  She attended Oberlin College on scholarship. She earned a Bachelor's degree in 1884 (while taking the "gentlemen's courses" instead of those designed for women) and a Master's degree in  Math in 1887.  She went on to teach at Wilberforce University and at St. Augustine before moving to Washington, DC to teach at Washington Colored High School.

While in Washington, she boarded at the home of Alexander Crummell with another famous educator, Mary Church Terrell.  In 1892, Anna published her first book, "A Voice from the South by a Black Woman from the South".  She traveled the country lecturing about the status and education of Black women as well as about civil rights.  That same year, she founded The Colored Women's League and joined the executive committee of the Pan-African Conference.  Since the YMCA and YWCA did not accept Black members, she opened branches for Black members to support them in their emigration from the South.  

In 1902, Cooper began a stint at a principal at M Street High School (formerly Washington Colored High) that ended in controversy.  The all white school board disagreed with her educational approach for Black students which focused on college preparation.  She resigned in 1906. In 1911, Cooper started her doctorate degree at Columbia University.  She took a hiatus in 1915 when her brother died so that she could raise his five grandchildren.  She resumed her doctorate degree in 1924 at the University of Paris.  In 1925, at age 67, she became the 4th African American woman to hold a PhD -- the second to receive a PhD in Mathematics.  

In 1930, Dr. Cooper retired from teaching to assume the presidency at Frelinghuysen University, a school for Black adults.  When the school was reorganized, Dr. Cooper stayed on as registrar until it closed in the 1950s.  In 1964, Dr. Anna Julia Cooper died at the age of 105.

She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

History and Medieval Studies Librarian

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Shaina Destine
Hodges Library

References / Additional Reading