“This Scholarly and Colored Alumna:”

Anna Julia Cooper’s Troubled Relationship with Oberlin College


Katherine Shilton

OC 2003



In 1926, scholar, educator, and early Black Feminist Anna Julia Cooper wrote a letter to the Secretary of Oberlin College, her undergraduate alma mater, with an academic offer. In fulfillment of a promised donation, she wished to contribute a scholarly work to Oberlin, which would be published at Oberlin’s profit. Le Pélerinage de Charlemagne, her translation of a medieval French epic, had been published in France, and she hoped it could also be of use, as she wrote, to “American students by facilitating the study of an important and rather rare text.”[1]

            Cooper was almost seventy years old when this correspondence began, and was already a distinguished author, teacher, and scholar. After graduating from Oberlin, she had taught for many years at the M Street High School in Washington, DC, and went on to become president of Frelinghuysen University, a Washington school for adult education.[2] She had recently completed a PhD at the Sorbonne, University of Paris, becoming the first African American to do so.[3] She was already a published author, especially known for the seminal A Voice from the South, published in 1892.[4] In it, she declared her radical views on both gender and racial equality, leading modern scholars to name her one of the founders of Black Feminist Thought. [5] Her accomplishments were at least superficially recognized by Oberlin College: a clipping from the Oberlin Alumni Magazine from 1925 (a year before she offered her text to the College) read, “The class of ’84 is honored in the achievement of this scholarly and colored alumna.”

Indeed, “scholarly and colored,” or perhaps “scholarly but colored” seems an accurate description of what the following letters reveal to be the somewhat troubled relationship between Oberlin and their alumna. She donated her work with the best of goodwill, and also remembered her days at Oberlin quite fondly, as the first transcription of her letter to personal friend Alfred Churchill shows. Clearly, she held little, if any, hostility to Oberlin in retrospect, which can be seen at least partially as an evaluation of the racial climate at Oberlin during the 1880s. However, race relations were in flux at the turn of the century and into the twenties at the College. Shortly after Cooper graduated, Oberlin began an informal policy of segregating dorms, believing, as President Henry Churchill King stated, “some kinds of association, at least, are better not attempted.”[6] This policy, along with Black women’s growing reluctance during this period to apply to Oberlin literary societies (one of which Cooper had joined during her term at Oberlin) because of the great likelihood of being rejected based on race, infuriated Cooper’s classmate Mary Church Terrell when she visited Oberlin to enroll her daughter in 1913.[7] She wrote,

“Although I try to be optimistic in this wicked and cruel country, in which everything is done to crush the life and break the heart of my unfortunate race, nothing has come so near to forcing me to give up hope, and resigning myself to the cruel fate which many people are certain awaits us, then the heartbreaking, back-sliding of Oberlin College.”[8]


The trend towards racism continued. In 1921, the Dean of Women wrote on the theme of dorm segregation, “They [White Oberlin women] do not really believe that it is best for either race to live in the same dormitory... they do not want social relations with the Colored race.”[9] Around the same time, letters appeared in the Oberlin Review defending the Ku Klux Klan, and students attended a debate featuring Klan members from nearby towns.[10] Terrell’s term “backsliding” described what was happening at Oberlin as Cooper offered her scholarly gift – the school was becoming more segregated and racist than it had been during Cooper’s stay in the 1880s.

With this history of race relations at Oberlin in mind, it is fascinating to examine the correspondence between Oberlin College and its “colored” alumna, Anna Julia Cooper. What is revealed is an African American woman’s power with regard to her alma mater, and also as a distinguished academic, just after the turn of the century. As Oberlin “backslid” into a position in which associating itself with Anna Julia Cooper might have caused embarrassment, it ultimately rejected the power that Cooper, as a scholar and alumna, rightfully had. However, as the last group of letters shows, this was not by any means the final word on the issue, and Cooper was able to retain the power her status brought her in some larger academic circles. Her work was eventually published in an anthology of medieval French literature, and was requested for classes and the bookstore at Harvard.

Born into slavery in 1858, Cooper triumphed against the odds of gender and race to receive a world-class education and claim power and prestige in academic and social circles.[11] Her writings on education, gender and race were widely received, and as an educator she sent hundreds of African American children on to receive first-rate educations like hers. The letters that follow provide a case study through the lens of Oberlin College of the delicate balance between the power that Cooper’s education and renown afforded her, and the oppression to which her race and gender exposed her. The delicate dichotomy found in these letters was a challenge faced by countless African American women at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.



Letter from Anna Julia Cooper to Alfred Churchill

Anna Julia Cooper wrote the following letter to her old friend Alfred Churchill, son of Professor Charles H. Churchill. She boarded with the Churchill family during her three years as a student at Oberlin College.[12] She retained fond memories of life with the Churchills, writing that she found it “pleasant and intellectually stimulating.”[13]Her affectionate recollections extend beyond the family; the letter also expresses a pronounced fondness for her alma mater.

Cooper’s memories of Oberlin are quite revealing of college life for a poor, African American woman of Cooper’s era. She mentions free time activities, all of which were jobs that allowed her to “eke out” her “slender savings.” Also worth noting is her comment about teaching 3rd term Algebra; biographer Louise Hutchinson points out that Cooper’s pupils were entirely White.[14] The fact that this was an enjoyable experience for Cooper speaks both to Cooper’s confidence as an instructor, and to the racial climate of Oberlin during Cooper’s senior year, 1884.

However, there are hints in the following letter that Cooper believed the environment at Oberlin had changed since her graduation. She wrote that the Oberlin she remembered, the Oberlin of 1884, was “Oberlin on its most generous side, its noblest & truest & best.” She seems to hint that the “giants” of those days were gone; later letters in this series will begin to address this question.

This letter nicely illuminates Cooper’s ideas of her own power as a student at Oberlin in the 1880s. Not mentioned in this letter but worth noting is the fact that Cooper was one of the few women enrolled in the “Gentlemen’s Course” at the College, meaning that she received education on an equal level with the men at Oberlin.[15] This letter, like Cooper’s academic decisions, pays tribute to Cooper’s feminism and her sheer bravery as one of just a few African American women at Oberlin. Both her feminism and her bravery are summed up in her memory that she shares here of her Commencement speech of 1884. She fondly remembers delivering the speech “mannishly,” despite the horror of attendant faculty, and in the face of her gender, race, and class, attests to her power in rhetoric.

[In margins, in a different hand:] A letter of Mrs. Annie J. Cooper, now President of Frelinghuysen University. Mrs. Cooper lived for a time in my parents’ home. Alfred V. Churchill

[Letterhead, printed]: Frelinghuysen University

A group of Schools for Adult Education

Founded 1906 by Dr. Jesse Lawson

201 T Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C.

Anna J. Cooper, President                                                Rev. Julius S. Carroll, Secretary

Lula Love Lawson, Vice President                                  Charles F.M. Browne, Treasurer.


January 21, 1941

[Handwritten:] My dear Alfred:

            It is more than kind of you to speak so pleasantly of me in your book of Oberlin Reminiscences & I am grateful for it.

            Your letter brot up precious memories, as hearing from you & Mrs. Anderegg always does _ memories the dearest & most precious of my entire life, of Oberlin on its most generous side, its noblest & truest & best. There were giants in those days, big hearted, high towered giants of spiritual elevation & self forgetful devotion. Of course, you know – I was “on my own” & glad of every opportunity to eke out my slender savings by earning what I could in spare hours. Hence it was like an unexpected legacy from Heaven when Anna Waddell called on me to supplement her failing eyesight by reading Guizot’s History of Civilization[16] aloud for her so that she was enabled to pass her term’s examination in it without using her own eyes. & then coaching students sent me by “Lady” Johnston[17] & best of all the 3rd term Algebra class in French Hall in my senior year.

            I recall it was debated by the Faculty whether to break precedent for commencement in ’84 in order to have a commencement speaker instead of the long & rather wearisome list of “essays” from every member of our unprecedentedly numerous class. “Proff.” Ellis our rhetoricals professor for the year said somewhat sarcastically I thot, “But your paws & maws will be disappointed if they have to leave without hearing every one of you.” I stopped after class to let him know he might save one five-minutes by leaving me off & no “paw & maw” would feel the worse. My offer was not accepted. I came on with “Strongholds of Reason” & to Mrs. Moore’s infinite disgust delivered it mannishly, not pretending to read an “essay” as a lady properly should.

            I am thankful to say my health is good & tho I retired from public schools ten years ago I am still teaching & carrying on the work in Adult Education at Frelinghuysen.[18] At 81 I read without glasses & write occasionally for publication. At the moment I am engaged on “The Life & Writings of Charlotte Forten Grimke,” a dear friend of mine whose diaries & other writings cover the interesting period from 1854 to the late 80s.[19] She corresponded intimately with Whittier,[20] Philllips,[21] Garrison,[22] Col. Higginson[23] & the gallant Col. Shaw.[24] Articles by her on the Sea Isles off S.C. appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Congregationalist & elsewhere. Enclose one or two samples of present activities. As [letter becomes illegible and ends. Perhaps a page is lost?]


Letter from Anna Julia Cooper to Oberlin College, Donating her Scholarly Work

            This letter, written by Cooper in 1926, began an exchange between Cooper and Oberlin College that would last for several months. Cooper had published her master’s dissertation, Le Pélerinage de Charlemagne, in France, with a forward that read, “[I] offer this publication in homage to and in recognition of the College and ... the mentors to whom I am greatly obliged...”[25]As she indicated in the following letter, she had always meant her dissertation to be a gift to Oberlin College.

            With this letter, Cooper answered a plea sent out by Oberlin College for alumni to meet a fundraising goal established by the Alumni Association, referred to as the 2-8-5 pledge.[26] She hoped that Oberlin would publish her book, and take any profits as her alumni donation. She believed she would experience trouble publishing the book herself, because of her skin color, attesting to the racism she faced from the academic press, even as a highly educated and respected individual. As a result, she specifically requested that Oberlin College not reveal “the personality” of the author, i.e., her race, when searching for a publisher.

            This letter illustrates Cooper’s power as an educated woman, able to traverse the globe and write scholarly tracts. However, her power is clearly circumscribed by her race, which she seemed to believe would impede the publication of the book. As later letters will show, she was right.


[Written in upper left-hand corner]: Personal. [Written in a different hand, upper right-hand corner]: Referred to Mr. W.F. Bohn[27]


[Printed letterhead]: Qui sert bien son pays (AJC) N’a pas besoin d’aieux[28]

201 T St, N.W.

Washington, D.C.


[In Cooper’s handwriting]: August 21 1926

Mr. George M. Jones

Secretary of Oberlin College


Dear Sir:

            I can only thank your considerate generosity that makes you refrain from reminding me that it is time for my “285” promise[29] to materialize, altho there has been hardly a minute that I have not been conscious of the fact, nor a day that I have not hoped that the realization of my dream was approaching. I have not been just idly hoping as the enclosed notices from French periodicals will show. My edition of the “Pelerinage de Charlemagne”[30] was first prepared as an M.A. dissertation at Columbia University & afterwards printed in France with the express desire to make it a material contribution to Oberlin, my beloved Alma Mater.

            Beyond the giving away of several copies I have done no advertising in this country, but have the 500 copies (minus those few complimentary ones) all expenses fully met – ready for the middle man (an American publishing house) who will take over the stock at 50/50 sending the whole of my share to Oberlin. I am not figuring on one cent of profit for myself or any refund of expense of printing, shipping etc. all of which I have met already. I ask only that the publisher be found who will relieve me of the advertising & publishing to get it introduced into colleges where French is taught & into prominent libraries.

Frankly I think my color will be a barrier in this country, & that is why I would have the work taken solely on its merits without reference to the personality of its editor; it may be that your intervention at this juncture can save the day without embarrassment to Oberlin.

I trust you have time to at least consider the matter & advise me.

Very sincerely yours,

Anna J. Cooper.



Correspondence About Accepting Cooper’s Work for Publication

            Anna Julia Cooper’s offer of Le Pélerinage de Charlemagne as a gift to Oberlin College set off a flurry of communications between Oberlin College professors, the Office of the President, T. Atkinson Jenkins of the University of Chicago, and Cooper. What had begun as a gift from Cooper became almost a plea; in the subsequent letter transcribed here, it becomes clear that she hoped not to handle the publishing at all. As she showed no lack of devotion to her academic projects throughout her life (it was only two years before that she completed the grueling thesis requirements at the Sorbonne, and she went on to write and publish more works in the 1940s), I speculate that her unwillingness to be involved with publishing had nothing to do with her drive, and everything to do with her race. Her frank admission that she “would have the work taken solely on its merits without reference to the personality of its editor” in the previous letter clearly demonstrates her anxiety.

That anxiety was well founded, as both her attempts to publish Le Pélerinage de Charlemagne detailed here, and later efforts with her doctoral thesis, The Attitude of France Towards Slavery During the Revolution, show. In her later attempt, she sought the backing of a white, male scholar: her old friend Alfred Churchill, at that point a professor at Smith College.[31] It seems that the burdens facing an African American woman in the world of the academic press were numerous, and difficult to surmount without help from white, and usually male, academics.

Cooper had no such backing when she offered Le Pélerinage de Charlemagne to Oberlin, and ultimately, the College rejected her request for assistance.  The rejection came seemingly on the advice of Professor T. Atkinson Jenkins of the University of Chicago, who was quoted as saying that Cooper’s work was “pretty bad”. The last set of transcriptions in this project serve to refute Jenkins’ analysis, which leads to an enquiry into what other motives Oberlin may have had for distancing itself from Cooper’s work.

            It is possible that Oberlin took Jenkins’ assessment of the work at face value; after all, Jenkins was one of the most respected philologists of his time, and a distinguished medieval French scholar.[32]  However, a distinct racial subtext runs throughout this stage in the correspondence. Despite the fact that Cooper specifically requested that her race not be revealed during Oberlin’s enquiry into publishing, adding in her letter transcribed here, “Just let me disappear from the picture,” William Bohn immediately notified Professor Hermann Thornton of Oberlin’s French department that Cooper was a “colored” graduatet. While it is not clear how much Thornton told the influential Jenkins, Thornton’s statement that “we must, I think, accept Jenkins’ opinion as apt to prevail in this country,” seems quite revealing. Because Thornton went on to say that he would put in a “discreet word” now and then for the work, he seems to reject the tome not as a work of literature, but rather as too much of a bother, or even, as Cooper hinted in her initial letter to Bohn, a racial “embarrassment”.

            These letters call into question Cooper’s power as a distinguished but “colored” alumna of Oberlin. Despite Oberlin’s stated pride in its graduate, evidenced by various documents housed in the Oberlin College Archives, the school did not wish to back the publishing of her academic work. As a Black female scholar, Anna Julia Cooper did not wield significant academic power with her alma mater.


[Typed and unsigned, probably from the machine of Mr. W.F. Bohn]

October 9, 1926

Mr. Hermann H. Thornton[33]

83 Elmwood Place

Oberlin, Ohio


My dear Thornton:

            Will you kindly do me the favor to read the enclosed letter and the comments on Mrs. Cooper’s book, and give me your frank opinion whether or not it would be even remotely possible for us to undertake to do anything about the publication of her work. Mrs. Cooper is a rather distinguished colored graduate. She seems to have a realizing sense of the difficulties her color adds to the situation, but I would like to write her if I may, frankly in regard to the question she asks. Perhaps I can wish it on our friend, R.P.J., in Paris if you have no suggestions, but I would value your own personal opinion.

Cordially yours,


[Printed]: Hermann H. Thornton

Department of French and Italian

Oberlin College

Oberlin, Ohio

October 11, 1926

My dear Mr. Bohn:

            I am in receipt of your letter, enclosing Mrs. Cooper’s letter and review clippings. If you consider it suitable and possibly helpful, I should be glad to forward the same to my friend and teacher, Prof. T.A. Jenkins, Professor of the History of the French Language at the Univ. of Chicago and at present Pres[^id]ent of the Modern Language Association, who will be interested, I am sure[,] in the edition, and who may be able to give us some advice. You understand, of course, that the work has been published, and that Mrs. Cooper has on hand the 500 copies, probably unbound. I shall wait to hear from you. It seems improbable that Prof. Jameson[34] could help her much with just the project she has in mind.

Very truly yours,



[Typed and unsigned, probably from the machine of Mr. W.F. Bohn]

Oct. 12, 1926

Professor Hermann H. Thornton

83 Elmwood Place

Oberlin, Ohio


My dear Thornton:

            I shall be very grateful to you if you will forward the material I sent you the other day to Professor Jenkins, and any help you may lend in this connection will be appreciated.

Very sincerely yours,

[Typed and unsigned, probably from the machine of Mr. W.F. Bohn]

October 14, 1926

Mrs. Anna J. Cooper

201 T St., N.W.

Washington, D.C.


Dear Mrs. Cooper:

            Secretary Jones has put in my hands your letter of August 21st, concerning your publication “Pelerinage de Charlemagne”, and I am of course very naturally interested not only in securing proper recognition of the work itself but also in your very generous offer to share any profit there may be in the sale of the book with Oberlin. In the absence of Professor Jameson, the head of our Department of Romance Languages, I referred the matter to Professor H.H. Thornton, who is the acting head of the department. Professor Thornton tells me that he would be glad to take the matter up with Professor T.A. Jenkins, of the University of Chicago, who is at present President of the Modern Language Association, and who will be interested. Will you, therefore, be good enough to send at once to Professor Jenkins, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, a copy of this dissertation? In the meantime, Mr. Thornton will write Professor Jenkins telling him that a copy is coming and asking for his cooperation. It is quite possible that Professor Jenkins may know of a suitable way to secure its distribution.

With all good wishes,

Sincerely yours,






[Printed letterhead]: Qui sert bien son pays (AJC) N’a pas besoin d’aieux

201 T St, N.W.

Washington, D.C.

[Handwritten in Cooper’s handwriting:] October 17 1926

Mr. W.F. Bohn

Oberlin College

Oberlin O.


Dear Mr. Bohn:

            I thank you for your letter. I am sending by this post as per your instructions a copy of the Pelerinage de Charlemagne to Professor Jenkins of the University of Chicago. I shall also take the liberty to send your Professor Thornton a copy together with my thesis on Slavery[35] for his personal perusal. And will you allow me to offer a suggestion that really seems like shirking responsibility. That is if you decide that the work is acceptable you will allow me to ship the whole consignment to Oberlin to be handled from there with such machinery as you have for distributing & accounting. Just let me disappear from the picture if you can take the 400 or 450 copies as squaring off my promissory note for $285. I ask no further consideration in the profits & have no concern in fixing prices. All expenses so far have been fully met by me & I will pay freight from Washington to Oberlin if you please to accept such a settlement.

I await your reply.

Very sincerely yours,

Anna J. Cooper.




[Printed]: Hermann H. Thornton

Department of French and Italian

Oberlin College

Oberlin, Ohio


October 30, 1926

My dear Mr. Bohn:

            I am returning herewith Mrs. Cooper’s papers, which I have recently had back from Prof. Jenkins. I regret to say that Jenkins thinks the work is pretty bad and does not feel that he can commend it for use in American schools. He has, however, bought a copy for his own library and written to Mrs. Cooper a letter discussing certain points in connection with the edition.

            Prof. Bourland of Western Reserve to whom I mentioned the work was inclined to think that, on account of the inclusion of the Koschwitz text,[36] it might be of use in Old French classes. I asked Mrs. Cooper to send him a copy, and should not be surprized if he would use it in his classes. While we must, I think, accept Jenkins’ opinion as apt to prevail in this country, I shall continue to speak a discreet word for the edition as opportunity presents itself. Needless to say, I have mentioned it and shown it to my class in Old French Literature, as well as to the little Faculty French Circle.

            Assuring you of my desire to be of service whenever I may in connection with the work of the President’s office, believe me,


Hermann H. Thornton.



[Typed and unsigned, probably from the machine of Mr. W.F. Bohn]

January 11, 1927

Mrs. Anna J. Cooper

201 T St., N.W.

Washington, D.C.


Dear Mrs. Cooper:

            I have hoped that I might before this write you that we had discovered some profitable way of distributing your book so that it would have the reading it doubtless deserves and also might produce a certain amount of profit which could be applied on your 2-8-5. Professor Thornton of our department of Romance Languages has been in correspondence with Professor Jenkins of Chicago and also with Professor Bourland of Western Reserve. Professor Bourland particularly seemed interested but none of these men seemed to think that there is any likelihood that a considerable number of these books could be put into immediate circulation. I suspect that if you have no better disposition to make of them, it might be a good plan to send the copies you have onhand to our Professor A.S. Root,[37] and let him see if he could from time to time make good disposition of them. He seems to have a veritable genius for exchanges and might use the books that way.

Very cordially yours,




Letters in Praise of Anna Julia Cooper’s Thesis

            Despite Professor Jenkins’s assertion that Le Pélerinage de Charlemagne was “pretty bad,” there seemed to be academic praise, and academic demand, for Cooper’s work. Below are a few examples from the Oberlin College archives of letters from academics that commend or request Cooper’s work. They are provided as evidence that Cooper’s work was not, in fact, “pretty bad”, but that an element of her race or gender kept her work from being accepted for publication by her alma mater, Oberlin College.

            These letters are also provided as evidence that, despite Oberlin’s reluctance to promote Cooper’s work, she was able to triumph. Although Le Pélerinage de Charlemagne was never published in the United States, Professors Holbrook and Palfrey of Northwestern University anthologized sections, and the work was ordered for classes at Harvard University. In addition, letters such as the one from Thomas Palfrey treated Cooper with the utmost respect as an academic. While racial politics at Oberlin made her position a difficult one, parts of the academic world seemed ready for her accomplishment. As these letters show, Cooper, at this point almost seventy years old, was able to retain academic power outside of Oberlin College, even as an African American woman.


French Summer School,

of Middlebury College,

Middlebury, Vermont.


July 17, 1925

My dear Miss Smith, -

            Will you kindly inform me as to the maiden name of a certain Mrs. Anna J. Cooper (colored) a teacher in Washington, D.C. She has just taken her doctor’s degree at the Sorbonne and has published a book that is receiving much praise from Frenchmen – a modern edition of “Charlemagne’s Pilgrimage,” a medieval epic of France. She dedicates it to Oberlin College. Mrs. Cowdery and I are quite anxious to find out if we know her.


Kirke S. Cowdery[38]


[Letterhead]: Northwestern University

College of Liberal Arts

Evanston, Illinois

Romance Languages

November 17, 1933

Mrs. Anna J. Cooper,

201 T Street, N.W.,

Washington, D.C.

My dear Mrs. Cooper:

            Professor William C. Holbrook and I, both of Northwestern University, are preparing, for early publication with D. Appleton-Century Co., an anthology of medieval French literature in modernized versions, and should be very grateful to you for permission to reprint certain excerpts from your translation of Le Pèlerinage de Charlemagne (Paris, Lahure, 1925).

            The passages which we should like to use are as follows: p. 2, pp. 25-31 passim, 37-43 passim. Unfortunately I have not the text at hand at the moment, but if there is any question about the extent of the material we wish to use, I should be glad to give you the exact lines.

            Apparently the book is not copyrighted in the U.S., but we have hesitated to use even the brief passages indicated without your authorization. Needless to say, we shall make full acknowledgement of the source upon which we have drawn.

            We are indebted to Professor Jameson, of Oberlin, for obtaining your present address.

Very truly yours,

Thomas R. Palfrey


[Letterhead]: Harvard University

Department of Languages and Literatures                                  Cambridge, Massachusetts

July 9, 1942

Mr. Alfred Vance Churchill,

Rockport, Massachusetts.


My dear Mr. Churchill:

            I send you herewith a check from my Department for $30.00 indorsed by me to Miss Anna J. Cooper for twenty copies of the Pélerinage de Charlemagne. Will you kindly have them sent directly to my office, 175 Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

            As I have already informed you, I have requested the Harvard Coöperative Society[39] to order twenty more copies and to send a check made out to Miss Anna J. Cooper to you so that you may handle the transaction.

            I shall be much obliged to you if you will confirm this whole operation.

Yours sincerely,

J.D.M. Ford







  1. The Anna Julia Cooper Alumni File. RG 28, Box 206, Oberlin College Archives.


  1. Diepenbrock, David. “Black Women and Oberlin College in the Age of Jim Crow,” UCLA Historical Journal. 13(1993).


  1. Gabel, Leona C. From Slavery to the Sorbonne and Beyond: The Life & Writings of Anna J. Cooper. (Northampton, Massachusetts: Department of History of Smith College, 1982).


  1. Hutchinson, Louise Daniel. Anna J. Cooper, A Voice from the South. (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981.)


  1. Johnson, Karen A. Uplifting the Women and the Race: The Educational Philosophies and Social Activism of Anna Julia Cooper and Nannie Helen Burroughs. (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2000.)


  1. Lemert, Charles, and Esme Bhan, eds. The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper. (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 1998.)





[1] Anna Julia Cooper, “Foreward to Le Pélerinage de Charlemagne” in The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper, Charles Lemert and Esme Bhan, eds. (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 1998) 230.

[2] Karen A. Johnson, Uplifting the Women and the Race: The Educational Philosophies and Social Activism of Anna Julia Cooper and Nannie Helen Burroughs (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2000) 68 and 86.

[3] Letter from C.L. Russell, Dean at Frelinghuysen University, to President J.T. Henderson of Oberlin College. May 31, 1930. RG 28, Box 206, Oberlin College Archives.

[4] Lemert and Bhan, 345.

[5] “ ‘Voice From the South,’ an Original Text of Black Feminists”, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 2, 1988. RG 28, Box 206, Oberlin College Archives.

[6] David Diepenbrock, “Black Women and Oberlin College in the Age of Jim Crow,” UCLA Historical Journal, 13(1993), 33.

[7] Diepenbrock, 34.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Diepenbrock, 35.

[10] Diepenbrock, 37.

[11] Johnson, 33.

[12] Louise Daniel Hutchinson, Anna J. Cooper, A Voice from the South (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981) 35.

[13] Hutchinson, 37.

[14] Hutchinson, 38.

[15] Johnson, 45.

[16] M. François Guizot’s The History of Civilization From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the French Revolution, 1855.

[17] Mrs. Adelia A. Field Johnston (1870-1910), the first woman dean of Oberlin College, who Cooper remembers fondly as having organized “weekly young people’s meetings”.  (Hutchinson, 39)

[18] A Washington, DC school for African American adult education, of which Cooper was at one time president. (Johnson, 86.)

[19] Published in 1951 as Personal Recollections of the Grimké Family. (Lemert and Bhan, 346.)

[20] John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), poet, abolitionist, and journalist.

[21] Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), orator, abolitionist, and women’s rights and labor advocate.

[22] William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), editor, abolitionist leader and religious reformer.

[23] Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) minister, abolitionist, soldier and author

[24] Robert Gould Shaw (1837-1863), White soldier who led the 54th Regiment, the first volunteer African American company during the Civil War.

[25] Cooper, “Foreward to Le Pélerinage de Charlemagne,” in Lemert and Bhan, 230.

[26] Letter from Alumni Secretary of Oberlin College on March 6, 1924. RG 28, Box 206, Oberlin College Archives.

[27] William Frederick Bohn, assistant to President Henry Churchill King between 1913 and 1944.

[28] “One who serves his country well does not need forbearers.” From Voltaire’s Mérope, 1743.

[29] Refers to a requested donation from all alumni, as set forth by the Alumni Secretary of Oberlin College on March 6, 1924. (RG 28, Box 206, Oberlin College Archives.)

[30] The Pilgrimage of Charlemagne, never published in the United States.

[31] Leona C. Gabel, From Slavery to the Sorbonne and Beyond: The Life & Writings of Anna J. Cooper (Northampton, Massachusetts: Department of History of Smith College, 1982) 69.

[32] Dr. Nelson DeJesus, Professor of French at Oberlin College, in an interview on December 11, 2002.

[33] Thornton was a professor in the Department of Romance Languages at Oberlin.

[34] Head of the Oberlin Department of Romance Languages. Hermann Thornton is acting in his absence.

[35] The Attitude of France on the Question of Slavery between 1789 and 1848, prepared as Cooper’s dissertation for her PhD from the Sorbonne, University of Paris. (Hutchinson, 138.)

[36] A rare German edition of Charlemagne by a scholar known as Koschwitz, which Cooper used to aid her translation. (Hutchinson, 134)

[37] Azariah Smith Root (1862-1927) director of Oberlin College’s library and professor of bibliography.

[38] Kirke Lionel Cowdery, professor of French at Oberlin College beginning in 1890.

[39] Harvard University’s cooperative bookstore