Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a respected force in the Washington arts and education scene, has died.
She was 70.
The Washington Post reports that Cooper Cafritz passed away on Feb. 18 due to complications from pneumonia, according to her son Zach.
In recent years, she had severe health problems, according to reports, including surgeries for her back and a gallbladder operation that left her in a coma for more than a week.
Cooper Cafritz grew up in a prosperous Black business family in Mobile, Alabama, but galvanized by the civil rights movement, Cooper Cafritz moved to Washington in 1964, and was a student at George Washington University, where she honed her determination to end racial segregation and its affects on campus.
She had organized a Black student union and helped force fraternities and sororities to adopt race-blind charters. Cooper Cafritz also co-created a pilot workshop in creative arts in the summer of 1968 while in the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
At the time, the school, which modeled New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, was a breakthrough institution for students in D.C. who were gifted in dance, painting, theater and music, but were not a good fit for traditional schools.
Over the course of 50 years, Cooper Cafritz became a well known fixture in Washington’s education and cultural sectors. She was also a socialite and activist.
Our condolences go out to Ms. Cooper Cafritz’ family.