like Hopkins used a fuzzy race background to move society's judgmental lens from skin color to individual accomplishment.36
Cooper also used light-skin heroines in her work, such as the "cream-colored applicant" in "Woman vs. The Indian," who was denied a place in Wimodaughsis (82). Like the novelists Tate writes about, Cooper isn't lifting the mulatto above those with darker skins. In extolling women's abilities to reform in "The Status of Women in America," she talks about their fierce loyalty: "You do not find the colored woman selling her birthright for a mess of pottage" (139). But the mulatta becomes a weapon to show that skin color is an "accident, not the substance of life" (125). Cooper mocks the whole notion of blood lines in "Woman vs. The Indian." "If your own father was a pirate, a robber, a murderer, his hands are dyed in red blood, and you don't say very much about it. But if your great great great grandfather's grandfather stole and pillaged and slew, and you can prove it, your blood has become blue and you are at great pains to establish the relationship" (103). Blood stands for little in the work that Cooper imagines for humankind, but she also questions whether it means anything by itself. The slave owner, for example, has created false divisions based on blood. "He sowed his blood broadcast among them, then pitted mulatto against black, bond against free, house slave against plantation slave, even the slave of one clan against like slave of another clan" (102). Cooper makes race a social distinction rather than a biological one. "Purity" rests in the mind.
It was a quality of mind that Cooper sought to create in her audience. Artists "have wrought into their products, lovingly and impartially and reverently, every type, every tint, every tone that they felt or saw or heard" (176), she says in one Voice essay, and they integrate these colors into their work. The artist controls the ultimate meaning of the piece. "For each of us truth means merely the representation of the sensations and experiences of our personal environment, colored and vivified, fused into consistency and crystallized into individuality in the crucible of our own feelings and imaginations" (176-177).
And this is what Anna Julia Cooper has done in A Voice from the South. She has used the rhetorical skills of the educated white man to package her own social criticism, a critique that fused the types, the tints and the tones of the world into a consistent whole. And in a close reading of how she crafts these new definitions, we see that she may be standing on the inside, as she did at the World's Columbian Exposition, but, from the insider's place, Anna Cooper has crafted a new world order.
I owe thanks to Karen Hust and Shelley Fisher Fishkin for their helpful comments and gracious support.