Contribution to Book
African American Political Thought: A Collected History
Melvin L. Rogers and Jack Turner
Chicago University Press
In her range of activities as orator, scholar, community activist, and educator, Anna Julia Cooper demonstrates a basic orientation toward life that paradigmatically exemplifies a proto-feminist politics based in intersectional analysis. Addressing problematic gendered, racialized, and class power dynamics in various institutions, Cooper sought a readjustment of relationships among all Americans that would ensure the dignity and worth of each individual. A close reading of her corpus also shows Cooper consistently identifying principles that advanced nuanced approaches to justice, freedom, and equality. In this chapter, I propose that Cooper’s mature intellectual vision demonstrates a particular vision of a transformed America, as well as viable ways of achieving its transformation. Advancing this view, I build on a core theme across Cooper’s work—what I call her politics of radical relationality—in which the fate of each individual (or the one) is inextricably connected to all (or the many). Central to this vision is Cooper’s conception of humanity, often described in naturalistic, evolutionary terms, which she used to challenge racial, gender, and class injustices of her day. She also appealed to a communal ontology in her view of humanity in order to assert the inherent worth and value of African Americans and other marginalized groups in North America at a time when their humanity was questioned or ignored.
White, Carol Wayne, "Anna Julia Cooper: Radical Relationality and the Ethics of Interdependence" (2020). Faculty Contributions to Books. 210.
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