Anna J. Cooper

African-American author, educator, speaker and scholar

Dr. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (August 10, 1858 – February 27, 1964) was an American author, educator, sociologist, speaker, Black Liberation activist, and one of the most prominent African-American scholars in United States history. Born into slavery in 1858, Cooper went on to receive a world-class education and claim power and prestige in academic and social circles. Upon receiving her PhD in history from the Sorbonne in 1924, Cooper became the fourth African-American woman to earn a doctoral degree.

Respect for woman, the much lauded chivalry of the Middle Ages, meant what I fear it still means to some men in our own day—respect for the elect few among whom they expect to consort.



A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892)

  • Respect for woman, the much lauded chivalry of the Middle Ages, meant what I fear it still means to some men in our own day—respect for the elect few among whom they expect to consort.
    • p. 14
  • The idea of the radical amelioration of womankind, reverence for woman as woman regardless of rank, wealth, or culture, was to come from that rich and bounteous fountain from which flow all our liberal and universal ideas—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    • p. 14
  • We too often mistake individuals’ honor for race development and so are ready to substitute pretty accomplishments for sound sense and earnest purpose.
    • p. 29
  • "I am my Sister's keeper!" should be the hearty response of every man and woman of the race, and this conviction should purify and exalt the narrow, selfish and petty personal aims of life into a noble and sacred purpose.
    • p. 32
  • When colored persons have been employed it was too often as machines or as manikins. There has been no disposition, generally, to get the black man's ideal or to let his individuality work by its own gravity.
    • p. 37
  • Since the idea of order and subordination succumbed to barbarian brawn and brutality in the fifth century, the civilized world has been like a child brought up by his father. It has needed the great mother heart to teach it to be pitiful, to love mercy, to succor the weak and care for the lowly.
    • p. 51
  • Whence this sneaking admiration we all have for bullies and prize-fighters? Whence the self-congratulation of “dominant” races, as if “dominant” meant “righteous” and carried with it a title to inherit the earth? Whence the scorn of so-called weak or unwarlike races and individuals, and the very comfortable assurance that it is their manifest destiny to be wiped out as vermin before this advancing civilization? As if the possession of the Christian graces of meekness, non-resistance and forgiveness, were incompatible with a civilization professedly based on Christianity, the religion of love!
    • p. 51
  • Our God is power; strength, our standard of excellence, inherited from barbarian ancestors through a long line of male progenitors, the Law Salic permitting no feminine modifications.
    • p. 53
  • You will not find science annihilating personality from the government of the Universe and making of God an ungovernable, unintelligible, blind, often destructive physical force; you will not find jurisprudence formulating as an axiom the absurdity that man and wife are one, and that one the man—that the married woman may not hold or bequeath her own property save as subject to her husband's direction; you will not find political economists declaring that the only possible adjustment between laborers and capitalists is that of selfishness and rapacity—that each must get all he can and keep all that he gets, while the world cries laissez faire and the lawyers explain, "it is the beautiful working of the law of supply and demand;" in fine, you will not find the law of love shut out from the affairs of men after the feminine half of the world’s truth is completed.
    • p. 58
  • A boy, however meager his equipment and shallow his pretentions, 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 with all the dignity of his far away office. While a self-supporting girl had to struggle on by teaching in the summer and working after school hours to keep up with her board bills, and actually to fight her way against positive discouragements to the higher education; till one such girl one day flared out and told the principal “the only mission opening before a girl in his school was to marry one of those candidates.”
    • p. 77
In 1877, Anna Haywood married George Cooper, a candidate for ministry at St. Augustine's University.
  • The earnest well trained Christian young woman, as a teacher, as a home-maker, as wife, mother, or silent influence even, is as potent a missionary agency among our people as is the theologian; and I claim that at the present stage of our development in the South she is even more important and necessary.
    • p. 79
  • One needs occasionally to stand aside from the hum and rush of human interests and passions to hear the voices of God. And it not unfrequently happens that the All-loving gives a great push to certain souls to thrust them out, as it were, from the distracting current for awhile to promote their discipline and growth, or to enrich them by communion and reflection. And similarly it may be woman's privilege from her peculiar coigne of vantage as a quiet observer, to whisper just the needed suggestion or the almost forgotten truth. The colored woman, then, should not be ignored because her bark is resting in the silent waters of the sheltered cove. She is watching the movements of the contestants none the less and is all the better qualified, perhaps, to weigh and judge and advise because not herself in the excitement of the race.
    • p. 138
  • To me, faith means treating the truth as true.
    • p. 298
  • Jesus believed in the infinite possibilities of an individual soul. His faith was a triumphant realization of the eternal development of the best in man—an optimistic vision of the human aptitude for endless expansion and perfectibility. This truth to him placed a sublime valuation on each individual sentiency–a value magnified infinitely by reason of its immortal destiny.
    • p. 298

Quotes about Anna Julia Haywood Cooper

  • Cooper ... speaks for ordinary black women, she rarely, if ever, speaks to them.
  • To counteract the prevailing assumptions about black women as immoral and ignorant, Cooper had to construct a narrator who was aware of the plight of uneducated women but was clearly set apart from them in refinement, intelligence, and training.
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