Essay on Anna Julia Cooper

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Anna Julia Cooper

"Only the BLACK WOMAN can say 'when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole . . . race enters with me'"

The life of Anna Julia Cooper (1858-1964) affords rich opportunities for studying the developments in African-American and Ameri can life during the century following emancipation. Like W.E.B. DuBois, Cooper's life is framed by especially momentous years in U.S. history: the final years of slavery and the climactic years of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. Cooper's eclect ic and influential career mirrored the times. Although her life was privileged in relation to those of the majority of
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In 1925, Cooper finally received her doctorate, from the University of Paris, thereby becoming the fourth African-American woman to receive that degree. Cooper's wri ting style changed as her life went on and she was not able to write consistently, but she did continue writing well into her eighties.3

Cooper's writings and life expressed her strong social concerns. Indeed, on a college questionnaire in 19 32, she wrote that her chief cultural interest was "the education of the underprivileged."4 This commitment is exhibited beyond her work as an educator and extends to the conscientiousness that infected her scholarship and her social activism. < h3>Development of a Feminist Critique

The first account that Cooper gives of her struggle against sexism is from her teenage years. She relates in "her first and only full-length book"5, A Voice from the South by a Blac k Woman from the South (1892), her protestation to the principal of St. Augustine's concerning the treatment of women in the school. One gets the sense that her strong convictions and deep feelings on the subject commenced to emerge even at that youn g age:

A boy, however meager his equipment and shallow his pretensions, had only to declare a floating intention to study theology and he could get all the support, encouragement and stimulus he needed, be absolved from work and invested beforehand
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