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The Feast Day of Anna Julia Cooper

The Feast Day of Anna Julia Cooper

If you have a moment today, read about Anna Julia Cooper, the Holy Woman whose feast day we celebrate.  The mother of Black Feminism, she was an educator through and through.  She was born in 1858 in North Carolina, daughter of a slave and her white slaveholder.  Among her achievements was a PhD from the Sorbonne which she earned at age 65. And she lived to be 105 years old.


Many of the saints we recognize in the Episcopal Church, especially the women, are such high achievers that when I look at the list of the things they brought about in their lives my head spins.  Dr. Cooper was certainly such a woman. And yet I don’t think she would have appreciated my awe-struck admiration. She would have wanted to know what I am learning and what I am teaching – and possibly how I help ensure that educational opportunities are available to all people of whatever race, gender or socioeconomic class.


When we talk about the need to be vigilant in order to defend democracy, many people think of being alert for the incursion of enemies.  What I think of is making sure that we are educated. How can we make decent decisions if we are ignorant of the issues about which we are debating?  And where do we get the information that we use to vote one way or another? Willful ignorance is the breeding ground of fascism. I believe that it breaks God’s heart when we turn away from learning.


Sophia, Holy Wisdom says in today’s reading from the Proverbs, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.  Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”


Thank you, Anna Julia Cooper.  May we continue your work in the ways most suited to each of us, so that everybody has the opportunity for education — to learn and to grow in the service of God and one another.



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Philip B. Spivey

Just to add that her legacy is alive and well at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. The Anna Julia Cooper Center there, for the study of the “intersections of gender, race and place”, was founded in 2012 by Melissa Harris Perry. Professor Harris Perry continues to head the Center today.

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