Anna J. Cooper: A Voice from the South

Dr. Anna J. Cooper, ca. 1923. Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

February 1, 1981 – September 30, 1982
Anacostia Community Museum1901 Fort Place, SE
Washington, DC

Dr. Anna J. Cooper (1858-1964) advocated for equal rights for black people and black women throughout her life. Locally, she helped to found and staff the Colored Social Settlement (today, the Southwest Settlement House), and developed recreational programs for young black women of the District. She was a lifetime member of the Colored Young Women’s Christian Association (now the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA). In 1892, she co-founded the Colored Women’s League of Washington, DC, whose credo was “give black women a chance, an education, and an opportunity.” The League opened a model kindergarten, trained the District’s first kindergarten teachers, offered sewing and gardening classes, and provided child care for working mothers.

Dr. Cooper also spoke nationally and internationally alongside Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Charlotte Forten Grimke, Mary Church Terrell, Harriet Tubman, and Booker T. Washington. When the first Pan-African Conference gathered in London to protest apartheid in southern Africa, Dr. Cooper was among those addressing Queen Victoria with a unified letter of protest (1900). In addition, she wrote poetry and prose; the exhibit’s title is taken from her autobiography published in 1882.

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