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Ann Cooper

Ann Louise Nixon Cooper was born on January 9, 1902 in Shelbyville, Tennessee and attended school in that rural community. After the death of their mother, she and her six siblings were separated, and an aunt raised Ann. In 1922, Ann Nixon married Albert Berry Cooper, a young dentist in Nashville, Tennessee. Soon after, the Coopers moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Dr. Cooper established a highly successful dental practice, and the young couple started their family of four children. Cooper served as a homemaker for most of her life, working briefly in 1923 as a policy writer for the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, which had been established in 1905 by African American barber Alonzo Herndon.

Cooper was a vibrant member of Atlanta’s African American elite for more than eighty years. During the first half of the 20th century, she and her husband counted as friends or acquaintances such luminaries as educators W.E.B. Du Bois, Lugenia Burns Hope and John Hope Franklin, Benjamin E. Mays and E. Franklin Frazier. She was an adult eyewitness to life in Georgia during two world wars, the Great Depression, and the efforts of whites to maintain segregation.

Cooper has worked to improve conditions in the African American community for much of her adult life. For more than fifty years, she has served on the board of directors of the Gate City Nursery Association. She was a founder of a Girls Club for African American youth in Atlanta, and in the 1970s, she taught people to read in a tutoring program at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In 1980, Cooper received a community service award for her activism from Atlanta’s WXIA-TV. In 2002, she was awarded the Annie L. McPheeters Medallion for community service from the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History.

The centenarian was the oldest living member of the Atlanta Chapter of the Links, Inc. and had been a member of the Utopian Literary Club since 1948.

On the evening of November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected the first African American president of the United States. That night, in his acceptance speech, President-elect Obama mentioned Ann Cooper and stated that her life exemplified the struggle and hope of the African American experience of the 20th and 21st centuries. She saw the changing times from the Depression and the Jim Crow South to new technologies and the election of the first African American United States president.

Cooper passed away on December 21, 2009 at the age of 107.

Cooper was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 24, 2004.

Accession Number

A2004.035

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/24/2004 |and| 12/8/2005

Last Name

Cooper

Maker Category
Middle Name

Louise

Occupation
First Name

Ann

Birth City, State, Country

Shelbyville

HM ID

COO06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

To Thine Own Self Be True.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

1/9/1902

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

12/21/2009

Short Description

Civic activist Ann Cooper (1902 - 2009 ) served on the board of directors of the Gate City Nursery Association for more than fifty years, was a founder of a Girls Club in Atlanta and was the oldest member of the Atlanta Chapter of the Links, Inc.

Employment

Atlanta Life Insurance Company

Favorite Color

None

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ann Cooper's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper describes her husband's roots in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper describes her mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ann Cooper describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ann Cooper describes the fragmentation of her extended family

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ann Cooper describes her father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ann Cooper describes her experiences at fairs in Tennessee and movie theaters in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper talks about changing her name as a child, pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper talks about her memories of Gallatin, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper talks about her family's experiences at Langley Hall in Gallatin, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper talks about childhood mischief with her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ann Cooper describes her brother, James Henry Nixon, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ann Cooper describes the original namesake of her husband, Albert Berry Cooper, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ann Cooper talks about the lives of her sisters

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ann Cooper describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ann Cooper recalls her father's talent as a shoemaker

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper describes the relationship between whites and blacks in Gallatin, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper talks about leaving home after the death of her mother in 1913

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper describes her experiences with organized schooling

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper describes her first meeting with her husband, Albert Berry Cooper, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ann Cooper describes her courtship with her future husband, Albert Berry Cooper, Jr., pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ann Cooper describes her courtship with her future husband, Albert Berry Cooper, Jr., pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ann Cooper talks about moving to Atlanta, Georgia with her husband in the early 1920s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper talks about the homes where she has lived in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper describes visits from famous African American singers to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper talks about Charlotte Hawkins Brown of the Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper talks about her friendship with sociologist E. Franklin Frazier

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ann Cooper talks about her interactions with W.E.B. Du Bois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ann Cooper talks about the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1940s

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ann Cooper talks about her friendship with Jessie Herndon

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper describes the dance halls in Atlanta, Georgia during the mid-20th century

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper describes her relationship with the Rucker family of Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper talks about her membership in the Utopian Literary Club

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper talks about John and Lugenia Burns Hope

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ann Cooper talks about Benjamin E. Mays and Sadie Mays

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ann Cooper describes her experiences with racial discrimination on public transit in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ann Cooper describes her experiences with racial discrimination on public transit in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ann Cooper describes her volunteer activities at the Gate City Day Nursery

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper describes her volunteer activities with the Girls' Club of Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper describes her tenure as a den mother with the Cub Scouts

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper talks about why history is important

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ann Cooper reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ann Cooper describes nearly drowning as a small child

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ann Cooper narrates her photographs

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Slating of Ann Cooper's interview, session two

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper reflects on her process for running meetings

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper talks about her mother's origins, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper talks about her mother's origins, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper describes her family life during childhood in Bedford County, Tennessee

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Ann Cooper describes her mother's death in 1913

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Ann Cooper talks about her father's death in 1915, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper talks about changing her name as a child, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper talks about changing her name as a child, pt. 3

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper shares memories of her childhood in Tennessee

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper talks about her father's death in 1915, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Ann Cooper lists her siblings

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Ann Cooper describes her father's extended family

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Ann Cooper talks about her aunt, Joyce Nixon

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Ann Cooper describes her grade school experiences

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper describes the family background of her aunt, Joyce Nixon

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper describes her social surroundings in Nashville, Tennessee during World War I

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper describes the romantic drama from her early relationship with her husband

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper talks about moving to Atlanta, Georgia with her husband

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Ann Cooper describes her father-in-law, a preacher in the A.M.E. church in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Ann Cooper describes her marriage to her husband, Albert Berry Cooper, Jr., in 1922

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Ann Cooper talks about her involvement with the A.M.E. church in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Ann Cooper describes looking for her first job in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Ann Cooper talks about working at the Atlanta Life Insurance Company

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Ann Cooper describes her experiences with the Herndon family

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

7$2

DATitle
Ann Cooper describes her experiences with racial discrimination on public transit in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1
Ann Cooper describes her volunteer activities with the Girls' Club of Atlanta, Georgia
Transcript
If you don't mind moving forward a little bit in time to--back perhaps to the 1950s and the incident on the bus.$$Oh yeah (laughter), yeah, let's see that might have even been after the '50s [1950s]. I was living here [Atlanta, Georgia], and you see there's a trestle right up the street there, and as far as the buses would go would be at that trestle and we were at that time having trolleys, you know the thing controlled by the trolley up there you had to get out and change that trolley to go back in the other direction, so by the time it got out here I would be the last one on there and usually I'd been sitting, when I got on it was crowded and I'm sitting on that side seat, and but when the old trolley man got off to change his trolley and jumped out the front door and I jumped right out behind him. And I was always going to town on--a friend and I caught ourselves having a day off, so I think Tuesday was our day off and I'd just go, and we just go 'cause our day off--and we bought, we'd buy things you know. And my husband [Albert Berry Cooper, Jr.] would always try to kind of keep up with what I'm buying, and by the time we got down here if he beat me home he's down there to see whether I got off, walked up with (laughter), and so I was gonna beat him home that day and I jumped off the trolley right behind the wrong man, though my old man wasn't on there that day, there was a young man on there and so he looked up and said, "Nigger get back on that bus and go out that back door!" (Laughter) See you got on the front, but all black folks had to get out the back door no matter how crowded, you gotta find your way to get out that back door. I thought, what, I'm down on the ground, feet headed this way. I thought, you and who else gonna make me get back on (laughter) you get on that--oh no, I got my feet headed this way, I'm, and I'm trying to beat my husband home (laughter). Anyway, you know any other lady, any lady would have just walked on, but I'm walking on home, now he telling me, "You get!" I thought, I said, "Look, my husband be driving along here in a few minutes." I said, "He catch you meddling with me he'll beat your head to a pulp." (Laughter) He jumped on that (unclear) (laughter). So you felt better doing something like that than you did walking on home after he done told you twice, "Get back on that bus, go out that back door" (laughter), and the next incident that got me, we had about--they tell me now we weren't paying but a nickel I think. You get on there and you could ride all the way down to Rich's [Atlanta, Georgia?] from Davison's [Atlanta, Georgia]. I don't remember how much it was, but when I got on, it was all full. There was that one seat there and the man sitting this way, you know, right behind the driver and there was that seat there. He's sitting there with his feet up on that seat, that side seat. So, I'm looking all around everywhere and didn't see any place, so I thought when I sat down he'd just move his feet, but I sat down and he said, "Nigger don't sit down in front of me." I said, "Oh you great white man," (laughter) and I got up and I said, "you sit there," you know, then he'd be sitting in front of me. "Oh, baby come on back here you can have my seat," all the colored folks you know sitting all the way back, "you can have my seat." I said, "No, let him move. He don't want me sitting in front of--" (laughter), so no he ain't gonna move.$That [Gate City Day Nursery Association, Atlanta, Georgia] went on and on and did well, and then they asked me to come on the committee to make plans for a black Girls Club. And the man who was head of the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association] called us together for that. So one friend who was on this board of Gate City with me, we answered that call and they--all these projects were getting up, apartments were just getting started, so there was a Grady Homes [Atlanta, Georgia] place over there. We took on a--the girls, you know, being left at home alone and getting attacked and all that sort of thing, we took on, I took on this auxiliary and we organized and finally got things going. We were into the United Way, not, that what used to be the, what did we call it first, not United Way, but it was--what was the organization that you could get all these help from? Community Chest, maybe (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Community Chest.$$Well anyway we got in touch with different people and a Mr. [Walter H.] Kessler who ran the Kessler department store [Kessler's, Atlanta, Georgia], was one of our board members. He gave us the first one thousand, I believe he gave us eleven hundred dollars to qualify to get into the United Way, and then he and his son served, we all would be on that board and we did everything. I'd bring the little girls out here and have graduation parties for 'em and they went from--first out of elementary school. We didn't have all of these middle schools and everything then. And my chapter of The Links [Incorporated] would give me gifts for--and make gifts for them as they graduated. That went well for the longest, then they decided they'd make us integrate. White women built a club out there on Donnelly Avenue. So, when they made us integrate and we went out there, well they took all their white girls away, you know, so (laughter), and they had--the women always said when they got all these things going if it got going and we took in men or white women and all that, they'd take it away from them, they'd lose all the credit, so sure enough they got in there and somebody would have the--a president of a bank or something, president of the Grady Homes [Community] Girls Club [Atlanta, Georgia]. Well, when they made us integrate they fussed, now who gonna be the executive director, should it be white or colored. We fought and fought and we finally got a lady to come down here from Chicago [Illinois] to be president. She didn't know anything about what all that was about, so of course they had to let her go on back about her business, so then we had no fight any longer, the white woman would take it and we learned after it was all settled that it was--the woman who took it was the wife of the man who'd been running the Boys Club all the time. So, you know that was a national thing, Girls and Boys Clubs [sic. Boys & Girls Clubs of America]. It wasn't the Girls Club, a black girls' club. So, when we knew anything, they had joined. It's not Boys Club and Girls Club, it's Boys and Girls Club, so of course then they, nobody was using this building out here on Donnelly, they had us going over to a little place over there on Edgewood Avenue, so tight over there, no parking and I thought well--and then we had a white man president of all of it, so I gave that up, but we had put on some wonderful programs for those girls. But, I gave that up, and the other woman who had worked with me, I had brought her in, she worked for the gas company, Gladys Powell was her name. I think she's out there, and she came in, you know we taught those girls a lot 'cause we were in one to one with them, and I'd say I'd bring 'em out here, bring 'em out here to Mozley Park [Atlanta, Georgia] and we'd put on carnivals and I, well we did everything to raise a little money. That's when my husband [Albert Berry Cooper, Jr.] would fuss about I wouldn't be at home at night. I'd go have a party and I got to chaperone that and so (laughter), but those are the things that I'd spent my time doing.