Fanny J. Coppin was an Black-American educator, missionary, and a life long advocate for black female higher education.
Fanny was born into slavery in the Nation Capital on October 15, 1837. when she was twelve-years-old, Fanny gained her freedom when her aunt purchased her freedom. But Fanny was sent to live with another aunt in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Living in New Bedford, Fanny worked as a domestic servant for George Henry Calvert (January 2, 1803 – May 24, 1889), where she learned how to read. By the age fourteen Fanny moved to Newport, Rhode Island alone, she struggle for an education and used the little salary she received to hire a private tutor, three hours a week. Years later Fanny wrote “It was in me, to get an education and to teach my people. This idea was deep in my soul.”
Fanny briefly attending an segregated Rhode Island State Normal School, an public school in Newport (Now Rhode Island College). She decided to relocate to Oberlin, Ohio in 1860, and enrolled in Oberlin College, where her achievements were amazing. Oberlin College was the first college in the United States to accept both Black and female students. Fanny became the first black American to be chosen as a pupil-teacher at Oberlin College. In her senior year at Oberlin College, she organized evening classes for free Black Americans in reading and writing.
In 1865, at the age twenty-eight, Fanny graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and the same year she accepted a position In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania). Fanny began serving as the principal of the ladies department at ICY, teaching Greek, Latin, and mathematics. Within four years at ICY, Fanny was appointed as the head principal of ICY, after the departure of Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett (October 16, 1833 – November 13, 1908). This position Fanny were able to influence two generations of young Black-Americans.
Fanny was responsible for the vast education improvement in Philadelphia. She expanded the curriculum to include the Industrial Department, and established a women’s industrial exchanged to display the mechanical and artistic work of young black women. Fanny also, founded the a home for girls and young women, that housed workers from out of town. But, Fanny did not stop there, she also persuade employers to hire her pupils in capacities that would utilize their abilities. During Fanny years as principal of ICY, she was promoted by the Board of Education to superintendent of a school district in the United States, but soon went back to being a school principal.
On December 21, 1881, at the age forty-four, Fanny married Reverend Levi Jenkins Coppin (1848 – 1924), a prominent black leader, and minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.), and together they became a driving force in the Black community. Fanny continued to work at the ICY, but add missionary work to her interest. In 1902, at the age 56, Fanny retired from ICY and began a new journey with her husband. She accompanied her husband, now a bishop, to Cape Town, South Africa, where they did missionary work counseling African women. While in South African Fanny and her husband founded the Bethel Institute. Fanny returned to the United States in 1907, and settled back in Philadelphia. After almost a decade of missionary work Fanny health began to declining. In her last years, she was able to complete her autobiography, and a book called ‘Reminiscences of School Life’. Fanny Jackson Coppin passed away on January 21, 1913, at the age 76.
In 1926, Baltimore, Maryland Teacher Training School was named the Fanny Jackson Coppin Normal School (now Coppin State University) in her honor.