Coralie Franklin Cook

Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biography of Coralie Franklin Cook, 1861-1942

By Kieori Gethers, Sharilyn Clark, Karla Knight-Valdry, Makiah Lyons, Breanna Makonnen, and Danielle Brodgon, undergraduate students, Howard University



Coralie Franklin Cook, 1917 in The Crisis 15:1 (November 1917), p. 24
Public domain

Coralie Franklin Cook was born into slavery in 1861 in Lexington, Virginia. She was the daughter of Albert and Mary Elizabeth Edmondson Franklin and was a descendent of the Hemings family that was enslaved by President Thomas Jefferson. In 1880, after graduating from Storer Normal School in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Franklin became the first descendent of a Monticello slave to graduate from college. Franklin's family was politically involved; her sister, Mary Franklin, married J.R. Clifford, a leader of the Niagara Movement and West Virginia's first Black attorney. In 1899, Coralie married George William Cook, a dean and professor at Howard University who also served on the executive board of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the NAACP.

After graduating from Storer, Franklin joined the faculty, teaching English from 1882 to 1893. Franklin took elocution summer courses at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. After teaching for a year in Missouri, she relocated to Washington, D.C. In D.C, Coralie Franklin Cook served as the head of the Home for Colored Orphans and Aged Women for five years. After her marriage, Franklin also began teaching at Howard University. She went on to become chair of the university's Department of Oratory, which continues to be a component of the Fine Arts department today. In Washington, D.C. Cook remained civically, socially, and politically engaged, including founding the School of Expression at the Washington Conservatory of Music.

Cook became the second African-American woman appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education, the first being Mary Church Terrell. She served on this board for twelve years. In 1896, Franklin was one of the founders of the National Association of Colored Women. Coralie was a committed suffragist, writing news editorials and giving speeches for many organizations as an advocate for women's rights. One of her most important editorials was called “Votes For Mothers”, published in the NAACP magazine, The Crisis. In this essay, she argued that denying women the right to vote was akin to denying people the right to vote based upon skin color: “It cripples the individual, it handicaps progress, and it sets a limitation upon mental and spiritual development.” Coralie Franklin was also vocal in her critique of the exclusion of Black women from the suffrage movement of White women.

Coralie Franklin Cook was a notable patron of the arts. She was a member of the Coleridge Taylor Choral Society and was elected president of the Washington Artists Association. She also gave a presentation on “Negro Poets” at the First Race Amity Convention in 1921 including readings from Phyllis Wheatley and Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

Coralie Franklin Cook died in 1942 at the age of 80. Mrs. Franklin Cook was an influential figure in D.C.'s civic history as well as African American history. The passion and fearlessness she exhibited as she fought for women's rights paved the way for African American women to stand up for themselves and be leaders.


Coralie Franklin Cook House (c. 1885-1886),

“Coralie Franklin Cook, Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), 28 November 1902, p. 11.,

Brief bio sketch of Coralie Franklin Cook, “Turning Point Suffragist Memorial,” accessed at

“Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.” Coralie Franklin Cook | Thomas Jefferson's Monticello,

“Coralie Franklin Cook,” bio sketch accessed at

Links to Additional Biographical Sketches

Who's Who of the Colored Race
Who's Who in Colored America


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