Annie Lee Wilkerson Cooper
Shout out to Annie Lee Wilkerson Cooper—civil rights activist and voting rights advocate.
A woman of purpose during the Civil Rights Movement, you remained determined to turn around the figurative ocean liner at the ballot box. Beginning in 1962, you were subjected to unfair literacy exams in order to vote in Alabama, but repeatedly failed these tests by the design of the imbalanced system. This provoked your tireless efforts to lobby for change to the state’s constitution that would allow people of color the right to fulfill their civic duty as voters.
You recognized the outsized importance of voting rights irrespective of one’s race. You crusaded for these privileges through peaceful protest until you were physically antagonized by Dallas County Sheriff, James G. Clark. Your anger fermented; and today, you are affectionately recognized as a symbol of triumph for toppling segregationist Sheriff Clark with a right hook to his jaw in Selma in 1965. Prior to this encounter, you were fired from your job for attempting to register to vote; but you did not let that deter your fight, comprehending that everything you want is on the other side of hard.
A woman on fire, you exemplified intensity as the key to short term success and consistency as the ticket to long term results. Moreover, your resiliency was the answer to both. This fire is why I have the right to vote today; and Annie Cooper Avenue, off of North Division Street in East Selma, symbolizes the right to vote for all U.S. citizens regardless of the color of their skin.
Thank you Oprah Winfrey for bringing Mrs. Cooper’s story to life in the 2014 award-winning Selma movie. Be it Harpo, Squeak, or the Mayor in The Color Purple, or even Sheriff Clark in Selma, you masterfully sent each to the canvas with a single blow in retaliation to their assault.