Anna J. Cooper

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Anna J. Cooper : biography

August 10, 1858 – February 27, 1964

Later years

Cooper was not only an author and educator, but she was a speaker as well. Some notable speeches were delivered at the World’s Congress of Representative Women in Chicago in 1893 (in which she was one of three black women invited to speak) and the first Pan-African Conference in London in 1900 (when she delivered a paper entitled "The Negro Problem in America").

In 1914, at the age of 56, Cooper began courses for her doctoral degree at Columbia University, but was forced to interrupt her studies in 1915 when she adopted the five children of her late half-brother upon their mother’s death. Later on she was able to transfer her credits to the University of Paris-Sorbonne, which however did not accept her Columbia thesis, an edition of Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne. Over the course of a decade she was able to research and compose her dissertation, completing her coursework in 1924. Cooper defended her thesis The Attitude of France on the Question of Slavery Between 1789 and 1848 in 1925. At the age of sixty-five, Cooper became the fourth black woman in American history to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy degree.

Although the alumni magazine of her undergraduate alma mater, Oberlin College, praised her in 1924, saying, "The class of ’84 is honored in the achievement of this scholarly and colored alumna", when she tried to present her edition of Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne to the college the next year, it was rejected.

On February 27, 1964, Cooper died in Washington, D.C., at the age of 105. Her memorial was held in a chapel on the campus of Saint Augustine’s College, where her academic career began. She was buried alongside her husband at the City Cemetery in Raleigh.

Legacy

Pages 26 and 27 of the United States passport contain the following quotation: "The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity." – Anna Julia Cooper

In 2009, the United States Postal Service released a commemorative stamp in Cooper’s honor.

Cooper is honored with Elizabeth Evelyn Wright with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on February 28.