The Quotable Black Scholar: Fanny Jackson Coppin
Fannie Jackson Coppin (1837 – 1913)
We do not ask that anyone of our people shall be put into a position because he is a colored person, but we do most emphatically ask that he shall not be kept out of a position because he is a colored person.
– Fanny Jackson Coppin, in a speech delivered at a fair in Philadelphia. This speech was anthologized in Negro Eloquence: The Best Speeches Delivered by the Negro from teh Days of Slavery to the Present Time, edited by Alice Dunbar Nelson (1914).
Biographical Notes: Fanny Jackson Coppin (1837-1913) was born into slavery in Washington, DC. She was released from bondage when an aunt purchased her freedom. She had a lifelong thirst for learning, and as a young woman she worked as a domestic servant in Newport, Rhode Island, in order to pay for tutoring. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1865, becoming one of the first African American women to earn a degree from a U.S. college or university.
The America 1900 webpage at PBS.org describes her contributions to African American education:
As a student at Oberlin College in the 1860s, Coppin established an evening school for freed slaves, and was the second African American woman to graduate from the college. Coppin took a position as principal of the female department at the Institute for Colored Youth, a Quaker academy in Philadelphia, where she was later promoted to principal of the school–the highest educational appointment held by a black woman at that time. Coppin anticipated Booker T. Washington’s call for vocational training for African Americans, establishing an industrial department at the Institute in the 1880s. This first trade school for African Americans in Philadelphia was an immediate success and had a waiting list for admission throughout its existence.
The Institute for Colored Youth, eventually renamed Cheyney University, is the oldest Black college or university in the United States.
Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland is named in honor of Fanny Jackson Coppin and her contributions to African American education. The Coppin State website describes her later years as a wife and missionary:
In the fall of 1881, Fanny married the Rev. Levi Jenkins Coppin, a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The marriage opened a wealth of missionary opportunities for Fanny. When her husband was made Bishop of Cape Town, South Africa, Fanny accompanied him and traveled thousands of miles organizing mission societies.
She returned to the United States after almost a decade of missionary work and died in Philadelphia in 1913.
Posted by Ajuan Mance