She hath done what she could

Daily Reading for February 28 • Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, 1964, and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, 1904, Educators

I may say honestly and truthfully that my one aim is and always has been, as far as I may, to hold a torch for the children of a group too long exploited and too frequently disparaged in its struggling for the light. I have not made capital of my race, have paid my own way and have never asked a concession or claimed a gratuity. Nor on the other hand have I ever denied full identification in every handicap and every limitation that the checkered history of our native land imposes. In the simple word of the Master, spoken for another nameless one, my humble career may be summed up to date: — “She hath done what she could.”

And surely no deeper joy can come to anyone, no richer reward than the pure pleasure of this moment from the expressions of appreciation in this assembly on the part of the community in which the best service of my life has been spent. In the language of our beloved Cicero: Nothing dumb can delight me. I ask no medal in bronze and gold. There is nothing in life really worth striving for but the esteem of just men that follows a sincere effort to serve to the best of one’s powers in the advancement of one’s generation.

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, on receiving her doctorate from the Sorbonne (1925), quoted in Charles Lemert and Esme Bhan, eds, The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), 341.

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