Fanny Jackson Coppin was born in 1837. She was born a slave. In 1849, her aunt ensured her freedom. Afterward, she served as a servant until 1860. In 1860, she enrolled in Oberlin College in Ohio, the first US college to accept black and female students. While a student, she taught an evening course for free African Americans in reading and writing, and she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 1865.
In 1881 Fanny married Rev. Levi Jenkins Coppin, pastor of the Bethel AME Church in Baltimore. Pastor Coppin was elected an AME bishop in 1900, and he was assigned to Cape Town, South Africa. The couple went to South Africa in 1902 and were known for much missionary work. They founded the Bethel Institute, a missionary school with self-help programs. In 1912, Fanny’s health forced her to return to Philadelphia, and she died on January 21, 1913. Coppin State University (Baltimore) was named after Fanny.