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The CLR James Journal

Volume 23, Issue 1/2, Fall 2017

Nathifa Greene
Pages 83-104
DOI: 10.5840/clrjames201712445

Anna Julia Cooper’s Analysis of the Haitian Revolution

Anna Julia Cooper has gained wider recognition in philosophy, thanks to the work of black feminist scholars, generating increased interest in Cooper’s ideas on race, gender, education, and social problems in the United States. However, the global scope of Cooper’s political theory has not yet received sufficient attention. Cooper’s 1925 dissertation is an analysis of slavery and the Haitian revolution, which demonstrates the fundamental contradictions within French enlightenment discourses of liberty. Cooper shows how European discourses of liberty were hampered by the realities of enslavement, predating arguments that would become more widely known in later works, such as C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins (written in 1938) and Eric Williams’s Columbus to Castro (written in 1970). As Cooper demonstrates how ideologies of racial inequality undermined the stated ideals of the French revolution, she argues from a natural law position to not only maintain that slavery is “a supreme crime against humanity,” in her words, but also that “it is natural and just that it contains its punishment within itself.”