Anna Julia Cooper: “Womanhood: A Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race”

(1886)

Taken from Anna Julia Cooper’s essay collection A Voice from the South (1892), the speech “Womanhood: A Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race” sums up the main arguments of one of the most important black feminists of the late nineteenth century. A former slave, Cooper attained advanced education—eventually earning a doctorate in Paris—and spoke in favor of women’s empowerment in the field of education, the church, and the home. Her book successfully engaged the white public dialogue on race and gender in the later nineteenth century and testified to the social advancement of black women in the South.