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



A Voice from the South is considered by critics today to be a foundational text of modern black feminism. Many of Cooper’s insights into the nexus of race and gender have been elaborated upon by later writers. In its own time, the book also drew wide attention and praise. Charles Lemert quotes the author of The Work of the Afro-American Woman (1894), Gertrude Bustill Mossell, who called Cooper’s book A Voice from the South “one of the strongest pleas for the race and sex of the writer that ha[d] ever appeared.”

Cooper and other feminist black writers were ignored by their male counterparts: The year that A Voice from the South was published (1892) the former slave and antislavery advocate Frederick Douglass was asked to provide the names of important black women for inclusion in an anthology of black writing, and he replied, “I have thus far seen no book of importance written by a negro woman and I know of no one among us who can appropriately be called famous.” Within...