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Today in History: Anna Julia Cooper Writes to W.E.B. Du Bois 12/31/1929

Sara Kugler, @sarakug
December 31, 2012

The day before the new year of 1930, Anna Julia Cooper wrote to W.E.B. Du Bois in response to the newly published book The Tragic Era: The Revolution After Lincoln, written by journalist Claude Bowers. Historian David Levering Lewis writes that The Tragic Era “congealed racist interpretations of Reconstruction in the popular mind as solidly as had D. W. Griffith’s film, The Birth of the Nation, fourteen years earlier.”

Cooper and Du Bois were contemporaries and colleagues; they attended the 1900 Pan American Congress in London together and were both members of the American Negro Academy.…

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Today in History: “Our Raison d’Être” by Anna Julia Cooper, 1892

Sara Kugler, @sarakug
September 17, 2012

Anna Julia Cooper wrote “Our Raison d’Être,” the preface to her book A Voice From the South, on September 17th, 1892. The piece, which sets up the premise of her book, begins by stating,

“In the clash and clatter of our American Conflict, it has been said that the South remains Silent. Like the Sphinx she inspires vociferous disputation, but herself takes little part in the noisy controversy. One muffled strain in the Silent South, a jarring chord and a vague and uncomprehended cadenza has been and still is the Negro. And of that muddled chord, the one mute and voiceless note has been the sadly expectant Black Women.”

She ends the preface by stating, “if these broken utterances can in any way help to a clearer vision and a truer pulse-beat in studying our Nation’s Problem, this Voice by a Black Woman of the South will not have been raised in vain.”

You can read the entire piece here, thanks to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s accessible electronic edition of A Voice From the South.…

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Today in History: Anna Julia Cooper delivers the address “The Ethics of the Negro Question”

Sara Kugler, @sarakug
September 5, 2012

On September 5th, 1902, Anna Julia Cooper delivered an address entitled “The Ethics of the Negro Question” to the General Conference of the Society of Friends at Asbury Park in New Jersey. Cooper began her speech with the following introduction:

“A nation’s greatness is not dependent upon the things it makes and uses. Things without thoughts are mere vulgarities. American can boast her expanse of territory, her gilded domes, her paving stones of silver dollars; but the question of deepest moment in this nation today is its span of the circle of brotherhood, the moral stature of its men and its women, the elevation at which it receives its “vision” into the firmament of eternal truth…”

In her speech she address the conscience and ethics of the nation, describing racism as not the problem of an individual race but “humanity’s problem.” Throughout her speech, she asserts the indisputable citizenship of African Americans and corresponding allegiance to the country, discussing the “hearty earnestness” with which African American children repeated the pledge of allegiance in public schools and stating, “They are Americans, true and bona fide citizens- not by adoption or naturalization but by birth and blood incontestable.” Cooper, who described her life’s vocation as “the education of neglected people,” reiterates in this speech the value and importance of education.…

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Happy Birthday to Anna Julia Cooper

Sara Kugler, @sarakug
August 10, 2012

Happy birthday to Anna Julia Cooper, who was born today in 1858.

Anna Julia Cooper

On her 82nd birthday, Cooper wrote a poem entitled “No Flowers Please” that discussed how she would want to be remembered. The final stanza reads:

“No flowers please, just the smell of sweet understanding
The knowing look that sees Beyond and says gently and kindly
‘Somebody’s Teacher on Vacation now
Resting for the Fall Opening.’”

The full poem can be found in the collection “The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper: Including a Voice from the South and Other Important Essays, Papers, and Letters,” edited by Charles Lemert and Esme Bhan.…

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