The idea for a middle school in the East End grew out of an on-going conversation among a group of Episcopal parishioners and priests from a number of Episcopal churches in Richmond, primarily St. Stephen’s and St. James’s. During the winter of 2008 and 2009 the group began putting in place the key pieces for a school: a building, staff, curriculum, and funding. The School looked to other inner-city middle schools around the country as models, primarily those from the NativityMiguel Coalition of faith-based schools and public charter schools like KIPP. The School was initially located in a renovated house owned by Peter Paul Development Center on 22nd and X Streets in Church Hill. The Founding Board voted to name the School after Anna Julia Cooper on June 8th, 2009. Coincidentally, three days later the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in her honor.
Beginning with 25 students in August of 2009, the Anna Julia Cooper School opened its doors with a Head of School and two lead teachers. In 2010 the School enrolled 35 students and used the basement of a nearby Church for two additional classrooms. In the Fall of 2011 the enrollment grew to 51 students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, and the School began leasing a former daycare building located at 2124 North 29th Street, where it is still located. In 2014 the school expanded to 5th grade and began to focus significant resources on the Graduate Support Program that assists graduates as they transition to high school.
By the fall of 2016, with a newly opened 4th grade and the first group of graduates enrolled in college, the total enrollment expanded to 102 students in grades 4-8 and 98 graduates. The fall of 2021 brings with it 2nd & 3rd grade classes and a total enrollment of 144 students. From day one, the School has been committed to helping its students change the trajectory of their lives, and has been sustained by an ever-growing and faithful number of volunteers and collaborating organizations. Parents and families commit support in various forms for their part, and all students receive full-tuition scholarships made possible by individual donors and local foundations who believe in the mission and life of the School.