Sankofa Studies

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper

February 12, 2020

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.” The author is Anna Julia Cooper. She is the only woman and only African-American to be quoted in the US passport.

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was an author, educator, speaker and one of the most prominent African-American scholars in United States history. Born into slavery in 1858 to Hannah Stanley Haywood, Cooper entered the first class at St. Augustine’s in Raleigh post-emancipation. She later graduated from Oberlin in 1884 with Mary Church Terrell and Ida Gibbs Hunt and became a renowned teacher and controversial principal at the M Street high school in Washington, D.C., the nation’s largest African American high school.

During her years as a teacher and principal at M Street High School in Washington, D.C., Cooper completed her first book, A Voice from the South: By A Woman from the South, published in 1892. It was her only published work, although she delivered many speeches calling for civil rights and woman’s rights. A Voice from the South is widely viewed as one of the first articulations of Black feminism.

Upon receiving her PhD in history from the University of Paris-Sorbonne in 1924, Cooper became the fourth African-American woman to earn a doctoral degree – at the age of 67. She was also a prominent member of Washington, D.C.’s African-American community and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

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