Discussion and Question & Answer Session
At 1199C Hospital workers Union
1319 Locust Street, Philadelphia
Moonstone Arts Center
People think of Octavius V. Catto if they think of the Institute for Colored Youth at all. Women are not included in many of the histories of the period but were active and played important roles in nineteenth century Philadelphia and at the Institute for Colored Youth. Fanny Jackson Coppin was the third principal, Frazelia Campbell was head of the Female Department of the high school, Sarah M. Douglass merged her own school into the Institute and became the teacher of girls in the preparatory school. Female graduates of the Institute included Sarah Daffin, Cordelia Atwell, Sarah Billingsley, Rebecca Cole, Caroline Lecount and many more who became teachers and activists in Philadelphia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and elsewhere. Fannie Jackson Coppin is a major hero of our story.
Born a slave in Washington D.C. on October 15, 1837 she gained her freedom when her aunt purchased her at the age of twelve. She was one of the first women to enroll in the men’s course of studies at Oberlin College in 1860 and was the first African American student to be appointed in the College’s preparatory department. Fanny established a night school in Oberlin in order to educate freed slaves. Upon her graduation in 1865, Jackson became a high school teacher at the Institute for Colored Youth (ICY) in Philadelphia and within a year she was promoted to principal of the Ladies Department and taught Greek, Latin, and Mathematics. In 1869 Jackson became principal of the entire institute, making her the first African American woman to receive the title of school principal, a position she would hold until 1906. She was appointed head of this distinguished school when there were men on the faculty, something OV Catto protested, but the Board of Managers said she was the best person for the position.
Fanny Jackson turned the ICY into a community school: she had tuition abolished so that ICY could be accessible to poor Black kids in Philadelphia (it had been exclusive before she arrived); she had students from out of town come to the school and board; she offered classes in the evening for working people and a developed a preparatory school so that more students were ready to enter the ICY; she developed an industrial department years before Booker T. Washington. In addition to providing African American youth with education, Jackson founded homes for working and poor women. She was an influential columnist who defended the rights of women and blacks in local Philadelphia newspapers including the Christian Reporter. She married Rev. Levi Jenkins Coppin, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church on December 21, 1881 and they went to South Africa in 1902 and founded the Bethel Institute, a missionary school which emphasized self-help programs. After a decade of missionary work, Coppin returned to Philadelphia because of declining health and died on January 21, 1913.
Our Panel Consists of:
Linda Perkins is Associate Professor of the Claremont Graduate University with an interdisciplinary university appointment in the departments of Applied Women's Studies, Educational Studies, and History. Perkins is a historian of women's and African American higher education. Her primary areas of research are on the history of African American women's higher education, the education of African Americans in elite institutions and the history of talent identification programs for African Americans students. She is author of Fanny Jackson Coppin and the Institute for Colored Youth. I could find only one book on Fanny Jackson Coppin, in addition to her autobiography, and we are pleased to have the author as one of our presenters.
Kabria Baumgartner is an Assistant Professor of History at the College of Wooster in Ohio. Her research and teaching interests include the histories of education, gender, and race in the United States and Canada. Her book manuscript, The Work of Time and Love: African American Women and Educational Activism in America's Republic, examines free African American women’s literacy and learning in early America. Her work has been supported by the Spencer Foundation as well as the Great Lakes College Association, and, more recently, the Library Company of Philadelphia, where she was a 2014-2015 Mellon Fellow in the Program in African American History.
Judith Giesberg, associate professor of history at Villanova University, is the author of two books on the Civil War—Civil War Sisterhood: The United States Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transition and “Army at Home”: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front and editor of Emilie Davis’s Civil War: The Diaries of a Free black Woman in Phialdelphia,1863-1865. Dr. Giesberg is the associate editor for book reviews for the Journal of the Civil War Era and an editor of the popular magazine Civil War Monitor. Dr. Giesberg also writes occasionally for The New York Times’ “Disunion” blog.