Comparison of Philosophers: Frederick Douglas and Anna Cooper
Fredrick Douglas was an African American, who was born as a slave. He escaped from slavery in 1838. Later he became a leader and a spokesman in the US Abolition Movement. He would be remembered by people inside and outside Black America for developing towering figure for the US Civil Rights Movement. Fredrick wrote three autobiographies. After running away from slavery, he became a spokesman. Douglas became famous in the United States and the UK when he first published his autobiography named The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself followed by My Bondage and My Freedom.
The work of Douglass is used around American philosophy, African American philosophy, and moral, social and political philosophy. They mainly look at his opinions in issues concerning slavery, racial abuse and discrimination, natural law, violence and self-respect, and the US Constitution. At that time, gender bias was so prominent in America that women were not allowed to vote.
Men were not the only victims of oppression. Anna Julie Copper underwent inequality too. She was born in North Carolina to a slave mother. She was an African American who spent her ample time studying the situations faced by Black women in America. At that time, African American ladies were not allowed to vote. Employment was preserved for white women only. This forced slaves to do indecent odd jobs for survival. Furthermore, women of African origin were not accorded the right to participate in nation building. They were seen as failures in the society who cannot do anything good. She deserves a round of applause for being the first African American woman to champion the rights of her fellow women with such aggression.
Cooper showed action in politics at the age of nine at the St. Augustine’s normal school. She was angered by the fact that education was gender-biased. More lucrative courses were reserved for men as women took inferior causes.
The philosophies of life of the two were almost similar. For instance, Douglas laments about slavery. Douglas does explain in his three narratives that slavery was inhuman and against God’s wishes. The Bible says that every person was created in God’s image; therefore, no man shall feel superior over the other. He argued this during his speech with the Garrison’s American Antislavery Society. He condemned slavery as he remembers his bitter days as a slave. “Apologists” of slavery said that blacks were baboons and not human beings. Based on Douglas’s argument, all blacks were human beings and equal to the whites. He hurled curses on apologists for hypocrisy.
Anna Julie Cooper, as discussed earlier, was a daughter to enslaved parents. She never believed that her destiny written by God was to be a slave. She always had hopes that one day African American ladies will have rights just like the whites. The courage she showed when fighting against slave and slave trade was self-explanatory. Her parents gave up and faced their fate with “pride and fear”, but Anna’s strength was just unimaginable.
Douglass continued his arguments saying the blacks were human beings and should be entitled to rights and laws in the US. He also urged the American government to respect the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Slavery deprived the blacks of their fundamental rights. They faced extreme police brutality from the whites. Douglas kept arguing that slavery was inconsistent. During his experiences, he encountered drawings of what other slaves experienced. The blacks were brutalized and subjected to rape and murder leading to families breaking up. This denied them proper education and self-improvement. The blacks were also exploited at work and deprived of the right to property ownership. The black slaves were unhappy. Denial of rights was all they got from the whites. “Negroes” were not considered as American citizens, thus they fought for freedom and independence. Anna Julie carried the same principles. Anna did not appreciate the cruelty imposed on her and her parents. She wrote poems to express her bitterness (“Frederick Douglas”).
Women suffrage was another philosophy of life Douglas shared with Cooper. Women were not allowed to participate in elections. Being barred from voting means you cannot choose the leader of your choice. Despite the mistakes the leader makes, one cannot do anything to get him out of power. For women to be given an opportunity in leadership and empowered to build the nation, they must be eligible to vote. The battle starts there. Fredrick and Anna saw the great potential in women and took all necessary risks to empower them. Never was Anna Julia Cooper given an opportunity to vote. This was something she personally experienced (“The Health Anthology of American Literature”).
Douglas had maximum respect for and unfading faith in the natural law. However, deep in his heart, he believed that the implementation of natural laws was hindered by slavery. The magnitude of brutality African American got from the government was unbearable (“Frederick Douglas”).
Douglas strongly supported Christian Protestantism. This was the only chance for him to make things right. Protestant Movements challenged both political and religious injustices experienced by African Americans (“Frederick Douglas”). On the other hand, Anna Cooper perceived natural law as a hypocritical institution which helps the whites only. Having seen her African American parents subjected to unacceptable oppression, Anna never saw the importance of law.
However, the two philosophers have differences. As Frederick Douglas was strongly fighting against racial discrimination against African Americans, Anna Julia Cooper was busy struggling for gender equity. The difference was brought about by their different personal life experiences. In fact, Anna fought for gender empowerment, especially for black women. In her viewpoint, all black women were equal to men regardless of the color of their skin. On the other hand, Douglas was mainly fighting for African American men though he showed some signs of representing women in the society, too.
Moreover, there is one thing that totally distinguishes their philosophies of life. Anna Julia Cooper was a voice of the silent black and white women in general. Though most of her scholarly work was about racism and general injustice to African American, it is obvious she fought for women’s rights. As a woman, she was not allowed to vote, and this agitated her to push things harder (“The Health Anthology of American Literature”).
Anna spent 4 years at Oberlin College and graduated in 1884 along with the other two African American women. Surprisingly, but only three black women graduated that year. Despite their small number, they symbolized strength and hope for many black women. Cooper made extraordinary achievements during the 1890s. In Washington D.C, she organized the Colored Woman’s League of Washington by 1892. In 1893, Copper collaborated with two other African American women, Fannie Barrier Williams and Fannie Jackson Coppin, to address the Women’s Congress in Chicago. She gave a spontaneous speech on “The needs and the Status of Black Women”. Anna thought that women are the cornerstone of morality in the society. She was right. Mothers help raise children. Children spent over 70% of their time with mothers. This fact has institutionalized mothers as the centers of social morality. We are who we are today because of our mothers (“The Health Anthology of American Literature”).
Her sole academic breakthroughs and commitment ensured the welfare of black men and women. Anna Julia Cooper saw the importance of education to women. To put emphasis on this, she went ahead to acquire a PhD in French in 1925 despite the support denial from her bosses. She graduated with the PhD from the University of Paris (“The Health Anthology of American Literature”).
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The two philosophers have the same background. Both were born to slave parents. The kind of life experienced by the two is the same though Anna suffered more due to women suffrage. They lived for one goal, namely to end slavery.
After graduation, Anna Julia Cooper got a good job which exposed her to many job opportunities. This enabled her to help many black women get jobs and climb the career ladder. This was not seen in Fredrick. Fredrick did not have such a philanthropic approach to life like Anna (“The Health Anthology of American Literature”).
Personal experiences of these philosophers have impacted the society in an unexplainable way. They went through physical and emotional torture. Racial segregation was the order of the day in America. Their dedicated work in fighting injustice against African Americans became fruitful. God works in a miraculous way, because America has its first black president. This is a historical moment which reflects the early life of blacks.
These philosophers have changed the world. They show that obstacles must not be used as excuses for failure. Anna went to France and graduated with a PhD though her employers refused to support her. She achieved much, and though she deceased, her actions of courage and humanity represent real God’s work (“The Health Anthology of American Literature”).
When you read their personal life stories, “The never give up”, ‘Nobody can put me down” slogans rock your head forever. Mitchell Obama is the most powerful woman in the world, while her husband, President Barrack Obama, is the most powerful man in the world. Let us not forget these leaders are of African origin. The greatest lesson learned, especially from Anna Julia Cooper, is the togetherness of spirit. If you succeed, you must help the less fortunate, and God’s blessings will rain on you.