Sunday, November 19, 2006

Women and Historical Pan-Africanism: Anna J. Haywood Cooper (1858-1964), Organizer and Peace Activist

Women's Contribution to the Pan-African Struggle: Revisited

By M. Mason
27 March 1997


The above quote begins Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's article "Women's Contribution to the Pan African Struggle."

Although Nyerere's summary of the position and resolutions considered by the Committee C of the Sixth Pan African Congress is commendable, the homage paid to forerunners named by Nyerere lacks historical significance in recognizing the movers and shakers in Pan-Africanism who were there from the beginning. Women addressed the attendees as well as served on prominent committees. They were sponsors, organizers, supporters and leaders. In this paper, which is entitled "Women's Contribution to the Pan African Struggle: Revisited," I hope to contribute to the scant documentation of their participation. Primarily the paper will focus on the Fourth Pan African Congress held in New York City, August 21, 22, 23 and 24, 1927. The Fourth Congress was organized, planned and financed by a group of women of African descent living the USA. Women who were members of the Circle for Peace and Foreign Relations under the dynamic leadership of Addie W. Hunton.

Pan-African Conference (1900)

The first organized effort to address the problems of African people worldwide was assembled in Paris, France in 1900 at the Pan African Conference. The 1900 Conference had been called and organized by Henry S. Williams, a Caribbean barrister practicing in London. However, DuBois would play a significant role of which he wrote:

I have lived to see a dream come true. I had a vision first in the last year of the Nineteenth Century when, on the way from the World Exposition in Paris, I stopped in London to attend a "Pan African Conference" called by a young West Indian barrister and attended by a handful of philanthropists, missionaries and various colored folk. Just what thoughts were back of the meeting, I do not know, but as I was made secretary, I wrote out my own ideas in the resolutions eventually adopted. They were simple and aimed at bringing together in regular meetings Africans, their friends and descendants to discuss and clarify their social problem.

According to DuBois, "[t]his meeting attracted attention, put the word "Pan-African" in the dictionaries for the first time and had some thirty delegates, mainly from England and the West Indies, with a few colored North Americans".

With W.E.B. DuBois as ringleader for the delegation from America, the representation was noticeable. As we will observe with the Fourth Pan-African Congress, DuBois included and trusted women in the decision making process. Among the delegation which was led by DuBois, Anna Julia Cooper along with Anna Jones, a school teacher from Kansas City, Missouri, served on the Executive Committee as well as addressed the Conference of 1900. Cooper's presentation entitled "The Negro Problem in America" undoubtedly, revealed her unwavering battle to improve the inhumane conditions of Africans in the United States of America. A daughter of a former slave, Cooper was the first of her family to acquire education beyond the primary level. Upon graduation from Oberlin, she became actively involved in the struggle to uplift the quality of life for Africans as an educator and social activist.

Accepting a position in 1887 as a teacher at the M Street School, Cooper resided in the home of the Rev. Alexander Crummell. She joined in residency her college alumnae, Ida B.Gibbs Hunt and Mary Church Terrell. Both Hutchinson and Hines mentioned the influence of Crummell on the life of Cooper. Hutchinson indicated that Cooper called him "Moses."

Rev. Crummell was a prominent minister who would become president of the American Negro Academy, founded in 1897. Among its membership was W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois had been the Academy's first president. Later, Cooper would become the first elected and only female member to the Academy. DuBois was impressed with the social activism of the young ladies being nurtured in the home of Rev. Crummell would seek and gain Coopers support for his Pan-African cause. At the Women's Congress in 1893, she addressed an international body of women concerning "The Needs and Status of the Black Women."

Associates of Cooper would play an active role in DuBois' Pan-African Congresses as well. In a letter to her mother in July of 1898, Cooper wrote of her meeting with Anna Jones of Kansas City, Missouri at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (1898). Two years later they would both address the Pan-African Conference in 1900 as well as serve on the executive committee. Jones speech was entitled, "The Preservation of Race Individuality". In The Story of a Rising Race: The Negro in Revelation, in History and in Citizenship, a one sentence biographical sketch of her life states, "Miss Anna Jones, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is a brilliant linguist and a successful teacher in the Kansas City High School for colored persons".

In addition to addressing the attendees, women served on important committees. Cooper was a member of the Committee which "drafted a Memorial to Queen Victoria that set forth 'acts of injustice directed against her Majesty's subjects in South Africa'". According to Hutchinson, the Memorial contained the following:

-The degrading and illegal compounded system of native labor in vogue in Kimberly and Rhodesia.
-The so-called indenture, i.e. legalized bondage of native men and women and children to white colonists.
-The system of compulsory labour in public works.
-The "pass" or docket system used for people of colour.
-Local by-laws tending to segregate and degrade the natives such as the curfew; the denial to the natives of the use of foot-paths; and the use of separate public conveyances.
-Difficulties in acquiring real property.
-Difficulties in obtaining the franchise.

Responding to the Memorial the Queen's respondent wrote the following to Henry Sylvester Williams, the General Secretary for the Conference:

Sir: I am directed by My Secretary Chamberlain to state that he has received the Queen's commands to inform you that the Memorial of the Pan-African Conference requesting the situation of the native races in South Africa, has been laid before Her Majesty, and that she was graciously pleased to command him to return an answer to it on behalf of her government. Mr. Chamberlain accordingly desires to assure the members of the Pan-African Conference that, it settling the lines on which the administration of the conquered territories are to be conducted, Her Majesty's Government will not overlook the interests and welfare of the native races.

It is unfortunate that Mrs. Cooper would later write of her role in the 1900 Conference was merely that of a globe-trotter. Most definitely, her role as a key player in the Conference left an impression that women are thinkers, movers, and shakers in the cause for human rights.

Claiming that the Conference had no deep roots in Africa, DuBois explained that the Pan-Africa idea died for the a generation.

Forward Ever - Backward Never


Biographical Information on Anna J. Cooper

Teacher and high school principal . . . scholar and college professor . . . graduate of the Sorbonne (Paris) with an earned doctorate and yet a product, too, of St. Augustine's College . . . author and speaker . . . organizational leader and community worker, president of an institution of higher education. Each of these is an accomplishment of some distinction. And when taken all together as the work of one person they constitute unusual and substantial achievement. An additional note: whether the accomplishments of man or woman they have tremendous merit. It is thus reasonable to judge Anna Cooper as a person of great accomplishment--not simply as a fine black woman but rather as a splendid human being.

Both the Anna J. Cooper Exhibit of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum and the accompaning book, Anna J. Cooper: A Voice from the South are exceedingly effective in bringing to life a rather extraordinary woman. Both show her in her time as a young woman and teacher, as the leader of a renowned high school, as the scholar in French, and the teacher of Cicero and Virgil.

The Anacostia Museum's Cooper exhibit and book are equally effective in presenting Anna Cooper as a leader in postsecondary continuing education, as a contributor in other ways to the Washington community and to the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, and as a person willing to accept the responsibilities of guardianship of young children.

The exhibit presents carefully and appropriately this woman against the history of the several decades before and after the turn of the twentieth cenrury. Anna J. Cooper is three dimensional--has depth--is a real individual in full setting of time and place.

In a long and active life a generation longer than the allotted Biblical span, there are a number of "high'' points, unusually significant happenings, in the life of Anna Cooper: the M Street High School period; the Dunbar years; earning her Ph.D. at the Sorbonne; and even after retirement, heading Frelinghuysen University.

However significant was A Voice from the South,by a Black Woman of the South ( 1892), her major publication; however striking was her accomplishment of a Ph.D. in French from a foreign university at age sixty-five (or possibly older); and however important is her heading Frelinghuysen University, Anna J . Cooper's major service and achievement lay in her preparation of high school youth through a sound curriculum and good teaching, including those who made their way in Ivy League institutions. With the exception of her four years at Lincoln University, 1906-1910, Anna Cooper was an integral part of the Washington high school scene from 1887 to 1930.

As noted at the outset, Anna Cooper was a person of real achievement, a black woman of solid stature. The Anacostia Cooper exhibit appropriately focuses on the major services of her life in five "Unit Designs" and places them in the perspective of the Negro movement of her time. Likewise, the Cooper exhibit book by Louise Daniel Hutchinson effectively presents and coordinates her life in broad context .

Anna Cooper may be considered along with Mary McLeod Bethune, Mary Church Terrell and Nannie Helen Burroughs.

A Voice from the South. Cooper's most important writing, showed her well ahead of her time in arguing for women's rights and the importance of a role for the black woman.

Her leadership in the Washington Colored Woman's League was important because that group was one of the three organizations that merged to form the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, which in 1981 held in Washington, D.C. its forty-second biennial meeting in its eightyfourth year.

That Anna Cooper could occupy the rostrum with Booker T. Washington (the Hampton Conference in 1892), represent black American men and women at the Pan African Conference in London in 1900, hold membership as the only female in the American Negro Academy (along with Kelly Miller, W. E. B. Du Bois, Francis Grimke, Carter G. Woodson, and Arthur A. Schomburg) can only add to her importance.

For the Anacostia Museum, Mrs. Hutchinson has based both the exhibit and this book on solid research using resources of the Library of Congress and the National Archives, of statehouses and courthouses, of university and local libraries (for example, the Washingtoniana Division of the District's Martin Luther King Memorial Library), of city directories, and of the Smithsonian Institution itself.The reproductions of rooms in the Cooper home at T and Second Streets, of an M Srreet High classroom, and photographs and captions in the exhibit book all tell us a great deal.

The splendid audio-visual experience of the exhibit and the service of the book, as a vivid reading experience have an important common element: set off Anna J. Cooper both as an individual and as a person in a period of history, in a social and cultural setting, in a changing political and racial climate. The reader can better understand why Anna Cooper should deny any gains from her white parent as the reader learns of the slave environment of the 1850s and 1860s, the time of her birth and early years. The reader can understand in the steadily increasing national, regional, and local measures of segregation and subjugation, and other forms of discrimination against the Negro,which Anna J. Cooper. A Voice from the South effectively relates, that Anna Cooper's acts were transgressions against a system and could not be tolerated.

This introduction might end on a note of creation of milieu,the social and cultural setting, to understand Dr. Cooper and what happened to her. The conclusion better might be rwo assessments of Anna Cooper, the first by the District school board, written in 1905, the second by a Raleigh attorney (white) asked by the school board to appraise her.

We belive that the principal, Mrs. A. J. Cooper, is a woman of good intellectual attainment, of high moreal character, and of excellent reputation among her people. -- School Board.

Her character has always been high...she became a successful teacher...and always had the reputation of being a successful a girl, she was studious and industrious.... --Charles Busbee, Attorney. Raleigh.

Our best recollection of Anna Julia Hayvwood Cooper might be that of the able teacher, kind human being, and person of good and respected character .

Anna J. Cooper

Anna J. CooperAnna Julia Haywood Cooper (ca. August 10, 1858---February 27, 1964) was an author, educator and one of the most important African American scholars in United States history. Upon receiving a Ph. D in history from the University of Paris-Sorbonne in 1925, Cooper became the fourth African American woman to earn a doctoral degree. She was also a prominent member of Washington, DC's African American community.

Childhood and education

Anna Julia Haywood was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the first of two daughters of Hannah Stanley Haywood, an enslaved woman in the home of prominent Wake County landowner George Washington Haywood. Haywood is widely believed by historians to be the biological father of Stanley's daughters. Cooper had two other siblings named Andrew J. Haywood and Rufus Haywood.

In 1868 when she was around nine years old, Cooper received a scholarship to attend school at the newly opened Saint Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute, founded by the local Episcopal Diocese for the purpose of training teachers to educate former slaves and their families. During her fourteen years at St. Augustine's, she distinguished herself as a bright and ambitious student, who showed equal dexterity with both liberal arts and analytical disciplines like math and science. During this period, St. Augustine's pedagogical emphasis was on training young men for the ministry, and preparing ambitious men for additional training at four-year universities. The school had a special track reserved for women dubbed the "Ladies' Course," and the administration actively discouraged women from pursuing higher-level courses. Cooper fought for her right to take courses, such as Greek, which were reserved for men by demonstrating her scholastic ability.

Copper also worked a pupil-teacher, which allowed her to pay for her educational expenses. After completing her studies, she remained at the institution on as an instructor.

Academic Career

On June 21, 1877, she married George A. C. Cooper, an ordained minister from Nassau, the Bahamas who was also a St. Augustine's alumnus. They met in a Greek theological class three years earlier. He in fact, was the 32 year old instructor of the class. He had been a tailor prior to attending St. Augustine's and had been the second African American to be ordained in the Episcopal Church in North Carolina.

Because of her status as a married woman, Cooper was barred from teaching classes at Saint Augustine's. She did assist her husband with his work as a minister. Not too long after their marriage, in 1879, the Reverend Cooper died suddenly of illness, which Cooper attributed to "overwork". A widow at the age of twenty-one, she soon returned to teaching at St. Augustine's. She would remain single for the rest of her life.

In 1880, Cooper won a full scholarship to Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. In 1881, though she was an older student, she entered the institution at sophomore standing. Cooper tutored classmates in advanced algebra and made an impression on her teachers during her time at Oberlin.

Cooper earned her bachelor of arts degree from Oberlin in 1884, along with two other African American women who would go on make lasting contributions to African American lives-Mary Eliza Church (later known as Mary Church Terrell and Ida A. Gibbs. Cooper subsequently earned a master's in mathematics from Oberlin in 1885.

In 1887, Cooper took a position as a teacher at Washington High School (later the M Street School) in Washington, DC. Colleagues and students remembered her as a dedicated, challenging teacher who expected the best from her pupils. Her performance led to her being named principal of the school in 1901. Under her academic leadership, many graduates of the M Street School would receive lucrative scholarships to prestigious Ivy League institutions.

This seemingly impossible academic achievement of African American students would soon draw the attention of the Washington School Board, who were enraged at Cooper's insistence on academic excellence for African American students at a time when conventional wisdom held that African Americans were intellectually inferior and thus incapable achieving academic excellence on the same level as White students. When Cooper refused to change her academic practices, the school board dismissed her as principal in 1906. She still remained with the school as an instructor, educating generations of students for the next four decades.

A Voice from the South: Cooper as Author

During her years as teacher and principal at M Street, Cooper completed her first book, A Voice from the South: By A Woman from the South, published in 1892. Perhaps her most well-known volume of writing, A Voice from the South is widely viewed as one of the first articulations of Black Feminism. The book advanced a vision of self-determination through education and social uplift for African American women. Its central thesis was that the educational, moral, and spiritual progress of Black women would improve the general standing of the entire African American community. Cooper advanced the view that it was the duty of educated and successful Black women to support their underprivileged peers in achieving their goals. The essays in A Voice from the South also touched on a variety of topics, from racism and the socioeconomic realities of Black families to the administration of the Episcopal Church.

Later years

In 1914, Cooper began courses for her doctoral degree at Columbia University in New York, but she was forced to interrupt her studies in 1915 when she adopted the five children of her late half-brother upon their mother's passing. Later on she was able to transfer her credits to the University of Paris-Sorbonne, and over the course of a decade was able to research and compose her dissertation, completing her coursework in 1924. Cooper defended her thesis The Attitude of France on the Question of Slavery Between 1789 and 1848 in 1925. At the age of sixty-five, Cooper became the fourth Black woman in American history to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy degree.

On February 27 1964, Cooper died in Washington, DC at the age of 105. Her memorial was held in chapel on the campus of Saint Augustine's College, where her academic career began. She was buried alongside her husband at the City Cemetery in Raleigh.

A minor traffic circle, Anna J. Cooper Circle in the LeDroit Park Neighborhood of Northwest Washington, DC was named for her. It circulates traffic between 3rd Street NW and T Street NW.

Shockley, Ann Allen, Afro-American Women Writers 1746-1933: An Anthology and Critical Guide, New Haven, Connecticut: Meridian Books, 1989. ISBN 0-452-00981-2

A Voice From the South by Anna Julia Cooper---The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers (Oxford University Press, 1990).
The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper : Including A Voice From the South and Other Important Essays, Papers, and Letters by Charles Lemert. Legacies of Social Thought Series (Rowman and Littlefield, 1998).
Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins. Second edition. (Routledge, 2000.)

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