Anna Cooper continued…


In 1902, Cooper began a controversial stint as principal of M Street High School (formerly Washington Colored High). The all white Washington, D.C. school board disapproved of her educational approach for black students, which focused on Black pride and college preparation, and she resigned in 1906, in protest.


Cooper also established and co-founded several organizations to promote Black Human Rights causes. She helped found the Colored Women’s League in 1892, and she joined the executive committee of the first Pan-African Conference in 1900. Since the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) did not accept Black members, she created “colored” branches to provide support for young black migrants moving from the South into Washington, D.C. Cooper resumed graduate study in 1911 at Columbia University in New York City. 


After the death of her brother in 1915, however, she postponed pursuing her doctorate in order to raise his five grandchildren, but after she returned to school in 1924 at the University of Paris in France.


Cooper continued her education even at a later age, claiming more power and prestige in academic and social circles. Upon receiving her PhD in history from the Sorbonne in 1924, Cooper became the fourth Black woman to earn a doctoral degree in America. She was also a prominent member of Washington, D.C.'s Black community and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.


In 1925, at the age of 67, Cooper became the fourth African American woman to obtain a doctorate of philosophy. In 1930, Cooper retired from teaching to assume the presidency of Frelinghuysen University, a school for black adults. She served as the school’s registrar after it was reorganized into the Frelinghuysen Group of Schools for Colored People. Cooper remained in that position until the school closed in 1950.


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

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