hidden figures: activists jocelyn & andrew cooper paved the way to make shirley chisholm’s election possible

February 21, 2017
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They say behind every good man is an even better woman, and in the case of Jocelyn & Andrew Cooper, they stood side by side in greatness. The duo accomplished more than many could dream of in their lifetimes, both together and separately, but one of their greatest achievements was all but securing Shirley Chisholm’s election to the United States Congress. In the mid-1960s, the Coopers took the city of New York head on in a battle for legitimate congressional representation.
Their majority Black Brooklyn neighborhood had been gerrymandered into 5 pieces, each with a white Congressman, effectively precluding the area from being represented by a person of color. Mr. Cooper was the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that challenged the apportionment of Congressional districts in Brooklyn, particularly in Bedford-Stuyvesant. This lawsuit paved the way for the 12th Congressional District of New York, which made history by electing Shirley Chisholm as the first Black Congresswoman to ever hold office. Jocelyn’s strategy of combining grassroots campaigning, voting registration drives and her encouragement to challenge the district itself changed the course of history forever.
After recruiting Andrew to politics in the early 60s, Jocelyn encouraged him to establish the City Sun in 1984, which was completely in line with his original line of business–writing for The Amsterdam News and founding and operating Trans-Urban News Service, with dual goal of training minority journalists and making culturally relevant journalism a norm. The City Sun was known a publication that pulled no punches in regards to its views on the politics of the day and their vision for tomorrow, making enemies with Mayor Ed Koch and many other political figures. This beautiful, powerful pair made such an impact on the lives of us all, with only the goal of helping to change the lives of their neighbors and fellow Brooklynites.
We celebrate Jocelyn and Andrew Cooper–they are hidden figures no more!

By T. McLendon, AFROPUNK Contributor

Photo by Jill Jefferson

Photos courtesy of the Cooper family