Is This Your Grandmother’s Fight? Black Women and the Politics of Respectability and Resistance
This curriculum is a resource for educators interested in teaching and learning about Anna Julia Cooper (August 10, 1858 – February 27, 1964): educator, sociologist, author, theorist and activist. The Colored Conventions Project Curriculum Team was created to provide a resource for educators to participate in the Frederick Douglass Day events planned by the Colored Conventions Project. This year the focus of our annual celebration on the life and legacy of Douglass will also center the work and life of Anna Julia Cooper. This curriculum explores Cooper and the ways she implemented and refined the use of the Politics of Respectability in her work for Black education, freedom and racial uplift.
Using the Paideia method, students will learn about the Cooper’s life and her work as an educator, activist and theorist. Her praxis (theories-in-practice) and contributions will serve as a lens through which to consider the concept of “Respectability Politics” as a tactic and methodology. Though widely used during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter and others have critiqued Respectability Politics and/or complicated the utility or efficacy of this strategy.
Through this curriculum, students will learn how to identify and analyze Respectability Politics as a tactic, its use, limitations, adaptability and endurance in struggles for civil rights in America over time. Students will read, watch and discuss excerpts from: Anna Julia Cooper’s, Only the Black Woman can Say, Mary Helen Washington’s A Black Feminist Voice of the 1890s, Britney Cooper’s “Prologue” in Beyond Respectability, a formal portrait of Anna Julia Cooper and an edited video and the lyrics of Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddam.
As a professional educator, you know your students, your school system, the standards and both school district specific expectations of the ways that content needs to be presented in your classroom. It is with this in mind, that this unit is offered as a resource. Please read and choose what you might want to use in your classroom in whatever format would work best. Feel free to modify, shape and tailor what is here to meet the demands and needs of your own pedagogy and context. But when you do, please do let us know.
We believe that the work of education is not just lifelong but a collective responsibility. It is in this spirit we offer this resource as a collaborative initiative, not bound by limitations of place or time. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact us on Twitter or on our website. Let us know if you used the curriculum in its entirety, a single element or elements; what worked, what was most useful, what was not useful and or the ways you might have been inspired by what we offered and created your own lesson plans, units or classroom resources to celebrate Frederick Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper and or other notable African American people, places, events or time-periods. We look forward to hearing from you!
Co-Chair, Colored Conventions Project Curriculum Team 2020