The Education of the Forgotten People
The woman of integrity, honor, and valor that I have chosen to present to you is, in my eyes, a woman who is often overlooked and undervalued not only in academia, but also in history itself. She was born into an era of not only physical, but mental enslavement and emerged to be one of the founding mothers of Black Feminism. She overcame adversities that millions of other women of her time, would not even think of challenging. She pushed every limitation, to the limit, and made sure that her life’s work would not go unnoticed. She ensured that her work would be a profound avenue of change and betterment, not only for African American Women, but the African American community as a whole. I bring you a glimpse into the life of Anna J Haywood Cooper and how she has inspired my academic aspirations.
I stumbled across her book, “A Voice from the South, By a Woman from the South” last semester while researching for a Sociology paper. I admit, I didn’t read the whole book, but the few chapters that I did read gave me such a thirst for more of Mrs. Haywood -Cooper. I felt like I would be doing myself an injustice to not learn more about this amazing woman, so I did.
“Annie” was born August, 10 1858, on a plantation in Raleigh, NC. Although, it was well known that it was against the law for slaves to be taught read or write, she loved learning new things and had aspirations to be a teacher. At the age of 9, years before slavery legally ended, Annie was selected by the Episcopal Diocese, for a scholarship that allowed her to attend St. Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, a school specially created for teaching former slaves, to teach freed former slaves. While at St Augustine’s, Annie’s resilience was tested time and time again. She was a highly regarded and noteworthy pupil; excelling in Mathematics, Sciences, and English she proved her way into subjects that were reserved only for males, such as Greek and Latin. She was the first African American woman to graduate from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio with a degree in Mathematics. After graduation she went back to St. Augustine’s to teach Mathematics & Science until 1892. She was then invited to teach at a highly acclaimed Preparatory School for colored youth in Washington, DC. A few years later, in 1902, she became the Principal of that school, which is now known as Dunbar High School. As amazing as these accomplishments are, they are not what drew me into loving Mrs. Cooper. What truly inspired me about Mrs. Hayward-Cooper was her life’s work, ideology, passion. She believed that in order for the African American community to rise and be the community that it has the undoubtable integrity to be, we must raise the educational, spiritual, and moral consciousness of the African American Women. She distinguished her mission as “the education of the forgotten people” (Leiter). She contested that higher education of the African American woman was, “essential to the regeneration and progress of the race.” (Leiter)
Although she was born into adversity being female and “colored”, she overcame obstacle after obstacle. Dedicated, no matter how long it took. She was 67, when she became the fourth African American woman to receive her Ph.D. in any subject. Anna’s research and theories focused mainly around Conflict Resolution Theory, which is my favorite sociological theory.