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The namesake of Baltimore, Maryland’s Coppin State University, Fanny Jackson Coppin, was a woman of exceptional fortitude and ambition. Born into slavery, Coppin was the first Black woman to become a school principal and was driven by a need to spread education to newly freed slaves.

Fanny Marion Jackson was born in October 1837 in Washington, D.C. into slavery. An aunt purchased her freedom when she was a girl, and she worked as a domestic servant while going to school. Coppin’s interest in learning was apparent early on, and an opportunity for higher education occurred when she attended Oberlin College.

As the first college to admit women and Black students, Oberlin was a godsend for Coppin and there, she became its first pupil-teacher. Coppin opened an evening school for freedmen to continue educating her people. She traveled to Philadelphia and taught at the Philadelphia Institute For Colored Youth, which is now Cheyney University. In 1869, she was promoted to her history-making role as principal of the school.

Coppin married A.M.E. Minister Rev. Levi J. Coppin in 1881. After retiring in 1902, Coppin joined her husband as a missionary in Cape Town, South Africa. She returned to Philadelphia in 1907 and completed a book, Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching that was published in 1913, the same year that she passed.

In 1926, a teacher training school was named the Fanny Jackson Coppin Normal School in her memory, which is now Coppin State.

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