Anna Julia Cooper was an educator and a Black liberation activist, fighting for both the liberation of the race and of women. She is known even today as one of the most prominent Black scholars in U.S. history. She was an alumna of St. Augustine's, a former faculty member at both St. Aug's and Wilberforce University, and a woman of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
She and classmate Mary Church Terrell were the first Black women to earn a master's degree, and she later became one of the first four Black women to receive a Ph.D. Like Dr. Terrell, Dr. Cooper also taught in the language department at the M Street School (now Paul Laurence Dunbar High School) in Washington, D.C., the city's first public high school for Blacks. She favored an education "designed to prepare eligible students for higher education and leadership," which caused some conflict among those preferring an education that favored teaching Black children trades. Later in life, Dr. Cooper served as president of Frelinghuysen University, a school founded to provide classes for D.C. residents who lacked access to higher education.
In the fight for liberation, she was critical of Black men for celebrating opportunities for racial progress that were not open to Black women, such as the right to vote, which Black men received in 1870, but Black women would not receive until the Voting Right Act of 1965, one year after Dr. Cooper's death. She was just as vocal a critic of leaders of the women’s movement for permitting an environment of racism. White women in the U.S. won the right to vote in 1920, underscoring Dr. Cooper's argument that neither movement considered the needs of Black women.
Young Students (K3-2nd Grade)
Anna Julia Cooper was born enslaved and grew up to be one of the first Black women to earn a doctorate degree. She is proof that no matter where you start, you can still finish strong. What are three strong finishes you want for your own life?
Middle Students (Grades 3-8)
Anna Julia Cooper, like Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and others of her time, believed strongly that liberation would be best achieved through formal education. What have you learned in the course of your schooling that might help you fight for people who need an advocate in society? What do you think you still need to know to carry out this goal?
High School Students (Grades 9-12)
Dr. Anna Julia Cooper was born before the end of slavery and was still alive and living in Washington, D.C. when the March on Washington happened in 1963. Both Dr. Cooper and Dr. King spoke about peace not merely being the absence of conflict -- Dr. Cooper said, "peace by suppression is neither natural nor desirable." And Dr. King wrote, "true peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." What do these statements mean to you? How are they relevant today?
Liberation pedagogy is a concept developed by Brazilian scholar Paolo Freire to level out the power dynamics within a school or classroom. The main idea is that when a person is truly educated, s/he will reflect on the world she or he lives in and challenge oppressive social structures in society. In what ways are you teaching for liberation in your classroom, or leading for liberation in your school? How are you equipping students or adults in the school to reflect on the state of things around them, and empowering them to challenge oppression, both in the broader society and in their school environments?
About the Series
A Black Child Can was founded to create a better world for students by empowering the adults around them with the knowledge they need to advocate on their behalf. The 2022 blog series builds on this foundation, encouraging educators to participate in the discussion and reflect on the ways they're showing up for their students.