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    Thursday, September 10, 2015

    Anna Julia Cooper and Black Women's Intellectual Tradition

    Anna Julia Cooper was born a slave on the eve of the Civil War. She earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in the 1880s and a Doctorate from the Sorbonne (Paris) in 1925. By the turn of the twentieth century Cooper had become a formidable educator, intellectual and activist. Despite these impressive accomplishments, Anna J. Cooper is almost singularly known for her feminist manifesto, entitled A Voice From the South By A Black Woman of the South (1892). The following dissertation project examines the ways that Black women intellectuals like Cooper situated themselves in the overlapping discourses of sex, race and nation, while simultaneously countering white supremacy and Black patriarchy. Cooper drew upon discourses of feminism and Black nationalism in constructing her intellectual worldview. Anna Cooper had been born a slave in Raleigh, North Carolina, yet her own personal elevation would not separate her from an understanding of the vulnerability of African-American women, especially the youth. Her political program was feminist in that she took a particular interest in young Black women, yet she used gender to theorize racial identity, white supremacy, and imperialism. For example, her socio-historical research challenges the colonial relationship between France and Haiti. Her dissertation, "The Attitude of France Toward Slavery During the Revolution, 1788--1805," is a striking example of how she analyzed multiple relationships through the lens of dependency. By recasting notions of "independence" in the case of the Haitian and French revolutions, Cooper challenged the notion of autonomy in the modern world, and ultimately the notion of national sovereignty, showcasing her Pan African sensibilities in the process. This project primarily reads Cooper's scholarly writing and intellectual perspectives in relation to discourses of feminism and Black nationalism. It juxtaposes A Voice from the South with her later work in order to show how Cooper viewed the South both as her primary field of activism and as an entry point into national and global conversations on race and gender. And it argues that Anna J. Cooper complicated discourses of feminism and Black nationalism by juxtaposing them with one another. Download Link
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