“I speak for the colored women of the South, because it is there that the millions of blacks in this country have watered the soil with blood and tears, and it is there too that the colored woman of America has made her characteristic history and there her destiny is evolving.”
– Anna Julia Cooper, World’s Congress of Representative Women, 1893 Chicago World Fair
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the publication of Harriet Beech Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Tubman and the Abolitionists Underground Railroad movements, and the first echo’s of the Civil War, were the push and pull in the rising tide of change.
With an enslaved mother and a white slave-owning father, Miss Julia Anne Cooper was born at the crossroads of slavery and the sprouts of a cultural revolution that would result in the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
From a young age, education and equal opportunities for African American’s and African American women in particular, were of paramount importance to Anna Cooper , who appealed in both her primary and secondary educations for the right to take classes formerly offered only to boys and men.
With a B.A. degree attained in 1884 and a Master’s in Mathematics received in 1887, Ms. Cooper was selected to work at the Washington (D.C.) Colored High School, a.k.a. “M Street School.” Her goal of “education of neglected people”, earned her the position of principle to the school in 1902.
During her time there, she educated, prepared and sent her students off to some of the country’s most prestigious universities, while simultaneously earning the M Street School national accreditation from Harvard University.
In the later part of the nineteenth century, she founded the Colored Women’s League of Washington (D.C.) and a chapter of the YWCA for African American women in the Washington, D.C. area. By 1924, she had left M Street to pursue her Doctorate degree at the Sorbonne in Paris, while raising her deceased brother’s five children. Upon her return to the U.S., she had become one of only four African American women at that time to have earned such a degree.
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