From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Cook, Isabel and John Hartwell

It has been mistakenly assumed that the Cooks were Kentucky natives. John Cook was born around 1838 in Washington, D.C., his family was free. Isabel Marion Cook was born in 1843 in Tennessee. Both were graduates of Oberlin College. The couple came to Kentucky in 1864 when John was hired as a school teacher in Louisville. In 1867, they moved to Washington, D. C. where John Cook had accepted the position of chief clerk with the Freedmen's Bureau. The family, which included extended family members, lived east of 7th Street, according to the 1870 U.S Federal Census. John Cook worked during the day and attended college at night. He was a member of the first class of ten graduates from Howard University Law School in 1871. He would become a professor and dean of the school for two years prior to his death from tuberculosis in 1878. John and Isabel Cook were the parents of musician Will [William] Marion Cook. For more see A Life in Ragtime by R. Badger; and Swing Along by M. G. Carter. 

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: African American Schools in Louisville and Jefferson County, KY
NKAA Source: A Life in ragtime : a biography of James Reese Europe
NKAA Source: Swing along : the musical life of Will Marion Cook

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Cook, Isabel and John Hartwell,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed August 24, 2019,

Last modified: 2018-04-01 18:19:15