Dr. Anna Julia Cooper

Dr. Anna Julia Cooper
Dr. Anna Julia Coop­er

The cause of free­dom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a par­ty or a class — it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of human­i­ty.”

– Dr. Anna Julia Coop­er

At the NGS Fam­i­ly His­to­ry Con­fer­ence on Sat­ur­day, I was lucky enough to attend the Wake Coun­ty lun­cheon.

The con­fer­ence includes sev­er­al oppor­tu­ni­ties to hear speak­ers over lunch for a fee. The fee includes the price of the lunch and also serves as a fund rais­er for the orga­ni­za­tion that has put togeth­er the event. These are almost always lec­tures, and while the lec­tures are more enter­tain­ing and light than those offered at the rest of the con­fer­ence, they are lec­tures.

The Wake Coun­ty Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety (of which I am a not-very-active mem­ber) chose to do this dif­fer­ent­ly. Instead of hav­ing one speak­er, they had a troup of actors per­form­ing a play tai­lored for the occa­sion. The play was based on the lives of his­tor­i­cal per­son­ages of Wake Coun­ty. While there were some rough edges to the per­for­mance, with some dropped lines, it was a very pow­er­ful per­for­mance. Espe­cial­ly of note were the por­tray­als of Joel Lane, founder of Raleigh and Dr. Anna Julia Coop­er. Of these, the pre­sen­ta­tion of Dr. Coop­er was the most affect­ing.

Dr. Coop­er was an edu­ca­tor and writer. She was the fourth African-Amer­i­can woman to receive a doc­tor­ate degree, and did so at the age of 65, shat­ter­ing bar­ri­ers of race, gen­der and age. She was born in slav­ery and lived to the age of 105, dying in 1964. She lived Amer­i­can his­to­ry from the Civ­il War to Civ­il Rights.

To read more about Dr. Coop­er, see the Wikipedia arti­cle on her life, or read her most famous book, A Voice from the South on the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Carolina’s Doc­South web­site.

Image © Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill. This work is the prop­er­ty of the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by indi­vid­u­als for research, teach­ing and per­son­al use as long as this state­ment of avail­abil­i­ty is includ­ed in the text. Coop­er, Anna J., 1892, A Voice from the South, Xenia, Ohio: The Aldine Print­ing House, Doc­u­ment­ing the Amer­i­can South. Uni­ver­si­ty Library, The Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill, 2000, http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/cooper/.