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About this Commemoration
Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was born about 1859 in Raleigh, North Carolina, to an enslaved woman and a white man, presumably her mother’s master. She attended St. Augustine Normal School and Collegiate Institute, founded by the Episcopal Church to educate African American teachers and clergy. There she became an Episcopalian and married George Cooper, one of her instructors, who was the second African American ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in North Carolina.
Widowed in 1879, Cooper received degrees from Oberlin College, and was made principal of the African American high school in Washington, D.C. Denied reappointment in 1906 because she refused to lower her educational standards. Cooper emphasized the importance of equal education for African Americans. An advocate for African American women, Cooper assisted in organizing the Colored Women’s League and the first Colored Settlement House in Washington, D.C.
At the age of 65, in 1925, Cooper became the fourth African American woman to complete a doctorate, granted by the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1930-1942, she served as President of Freylinghuysen University. She died at the age of 104.
Elizabeth Evelyn Wright was born in Talbotton, Georgia, in 1872. Her father was an African American and her mother of Cherokee descent.
With the encouragement of her teachers, Lizzie, as she was called, enrolled at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. She worked for the school during the day and attended night classes, but Olivia Washington, wife of the head of Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington, noted her promise and strength of character. Mrs. Washington made it possible for Lizzie to attend day classes.
Wright interrupted her studies and went to Hampton County, South Carolina, to establish a school for rural black children. Arsonists thwarted her efforts and she returned to Tuskegee to finish her degree, graduating in 1894. She returned to Hampton County to re-start her school, but once again her efforts were turned back. Together with two colleagues, Jessie Dorsey and Hattie Davidson, she ventured to friendlier territory near Denmark in 1897. There she started the Denmark Industrial Institute, modeled after Tuskegee. It continues today as Voorhees College, affiliated with the Episcopal Church.
I Eternal God, who didst inspire Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright with the love of learning and the joy of teaching: Help us also to gather and use the resources of our communities for the education of all thy children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Eternal God, you inspired Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright with the love of learning and the joy of teaching: Help us also to gather and use the resources of our communities for the education of all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 4:6–16
Preface of a Saint (3)
Text from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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