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Cook, John, Jr.(1833–1910) - Educator, government official, Chronology

district union washington seminary

A multifaceted man, John Cook Jr. was a staunch supporter of suffrage, public schools for black people in Washington, D.C., and civil rights. Cook held a number of political offices that gave him influence in the Republican Party. He belonged to one of the black elite families in the district and acquired considerable wealth on his own. Cook Jr. and his family were socially exclusive, but he demonstrated his concern for the entire black community by working through various organizations in their behalf.

Born in Washington, D.C., on September 21, 1833, John Francis Cook Jr. was the son of John Francis Sr. and Jane Mann Cook, a woman of Afro-Indian ancestry. His father was a prominent African American clergyman, educator, and community leader. He had a younger brother, George F. T. Cook, who became the first and for many years the only black superintendent in the District of Columbia. John Cook was educated at Union Seminary, which was his father’s school, located on H Street near 14th Street, NW. Then he attended Oberlin College in Ohio from 1853 to 1855. After their father died in 1855, the Cook brothers, both Oberlin students, returned to Washington to take control of their father’s school, Union Seminary.

Cook Jr. taught in Union Seminary for a few years and then relocated to New Orleans where he continued to teach. When the Civil War began, he returned home and to Union Seminary which the two Cook brothers operated until it closed in 1867. In that same year, the District of Columbia opened public schools for its African American residents, which caused Union to suffer. George Cook became superintendent of the separate school system that the district maintained for blacks, while in 1867 John Cook entered a career in government service by working as a clerk in Washington’s office of the collector of taxes. In 1868 he was elected to the Board of Aldermen; this was the first election in which blacks were permitted to vote. By now he was heavily involved in Republican politics and had some political power. In 1869 he was elected city registrar. When Washington became a federal territory in 1871, he was reappointed to that post.

Cook served as justice of the peace from 1869 to 1876. In 1872 and again in 1880 Cook was a delegate to the Republican National Convention. The shrewd and tactful Cook endeared himself to influential members of Congress and to those in the White House as well. In 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him district tax collector—a post that he held until 1884 when the Democratic Party and Grover Cleveland took office. He was jury commissioner in 1889. He became less prominent as a local official when be left his post as tax collector.



Born in Washington, D.C. on September 21


Studies at Oberlin College


Manages Union Seminary, with brother George F. T. Cook


Marries Helen Appo


Begins career in government service


Joins Board of Aldermen


Becomes city registrar


Serves as justice of the peace


Becomes city registrar for second time


Serves as district tax collector


Serves on Board of Trustees for Howard University


Becomes jury commissioner


Becomes member of the District of Columbia Board of Education


Dies on January 20

Cook, John, Sr.(1810–1855) - Educator, minister, Chronology [next] [back] Cook, James

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