Andrew W. Cooper's Impact on Modern-Day Brooklyn
Publication Year: 2012
In 1966, a year after the Voting Rights Act began liberating millions of southern blacks, New Yorkers challenged a political system that weakened their voting power. Andrew W. Cooper (1927-2002), a beer company employee, sued state officials in a case called Cooper vs. Power. In 1968, the courts agreed that black citizens were denied the right to elect an authentic representative of their community. The 12th Congressional District was redrawn. Shirley Chisholm, a member of Cooper's political club, ran for the new seat and made history as the first black woman elected to Congress.Cooper became a journalist, a political columnist, then founder of Trans Urban News Service and the City Sun, a feisty Brooklyn-based weekly that published from 1984 to 1996. Whether the stories were about Mayor Koch or Rev. Al Sharpton, Howard Beach or Crown Heights, Tawana Brawley's dubious rape allegations, the Daily News Four trial, or Spike Lee's filmmaking career, Cooper's City Sun commanded attention and moved officials and readers to action.
Cooper's leadership also gave Brooklyn--particularly predominantly black central Brooklyn--an identity. It is no accident that in the twenty-first century the borough crackles with energy. Cooper fought tirelessly for the community's vitality when it was virtually abandoned by the civic and business establishments in the mid-to-late twentieth century. In addition, scores of journalists trained by Cooper are keeping his spirit alive.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
This journey began in the summer of 2005 when Jocelyn C. Cooper asked me to write a biography of her late husband. I accepted the challenge because Andy Cooper profoundly affected my career. He gave me a start in journalism at Trans Urban News Service in the late 1970s ...
1. Boy to Man
Palmer Cooper, twenty-two, a World War I army veteran, married Irma Cathlee Robinson, twenty-four, of Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 1920, in New York City. They lived on 133rd Street in Harlem and attended St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.1 ...
2. Jim Crow Brooklyn
By 1947, America was more than a year removed from World War II, and civilian society was transforming rapidly. One of the more dramatic changes occurred in sports, and the place was Brooklyn: Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first black to break the Major League Baseball color line.1 ...
3. Political Awakening
On December 5, 1957, New York became the first city in the United States to legislate against racial or religious discrimination in the housing market by adopting the Fair Housing Practices Law.1 New York was becoming more racially segregated. Harlem was the black ghetto, and in little more than a decade, ...
4. Civil Rights, Brooklyn Style
Jocelyn and Andy Cooper attended the March on Washington in August 1963 and heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his historic speech. Energized, Andy returned home, but Jocelyn and Pat Carter stayed in Washington for a meeting with representatives from the Democratic National Committee.1 ...
5. Cooper versus Power
On February 4, 1966, senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York walked some Bedford-Stuyvesant streets with local activists. With an estimated 450,000 residents, the Brooklyn neighborhood was a more populous black community than storied Harlem; 84 percent of its people were black, and 12 percent Puerto Rican. ...
6. Schaefer Suds
Andrew W. Stanfield was a two-time Olympian and a medalist in track and field. He became a public relations representative with the F&M Schaefer brewery in the early 1960s. Stanfield was promoted to manager of trade and consumer relations in 1964. A year later he advanced to community relations manager.1 ...
7. One Man’s Opinion
By 1972 Andy’s champion, mayor John Lindsay, had switched his political affiliation from Liberal Republican to Democrat and entered the presidential primaries. George McGovern of South Dakota eventually won the Democratic nomination that summer. ...
8. Trans Urban News Service
In spring 1977, I applied to daily newspapers along the Atlantic Coast. I cast a wide net, fishing for work at papers big and small, from Boston to Atlanta, yet my net did not appear big enough to catch a job. I had just graduated from Long Island University in Brooklyn, so my résumé probably showed my inexperience. ...
9. TNS Shuts Down
The eighteen-month grant that funded the payroll for TNS researchers— reporters, in fact—ended in July 1979. Cooper and Leid apparently worked for months without a staff. Two months later, in September 1979, I left for graduate school at Columbia. ...
10. Rising Sun
By October 1982, although it ran an overachieving job training program that was one of the best in New York State, TNS struggled despite its reputation for excellence.1 Federal cutbacks by the Reagan administration left the state Department of Labor no choice but to reduce its support of training programs, even the proven successes. ...
11. Bright, Shining Years
On November 3, 1984, Eleanor Bumpurs, a sixty-seven-year-old grandmother, was served with a warrant for authorities to evict her from her Bronx apartment because she was behind on her $96.85 monthly rent. The city housing authority manager who signed the warrant had been on the job for one day. ...
12. Nineteen Eighty-Six
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called Hospital and Health Care Workers Local 1199 “his favorite union.” And why not? The predominantly black and Hispanic union of bedpan orderlies, sanitation workers, and others symbolized the underdogs. In the 1960s and 1970s, the union’s leaders scored a string of victories for worker dignity. ...
13. Howard Beach
On Saturday, December 20, 1986, three days after the City Sun published its final edition of the year and Andy Cooper and his staff began a two-week holiday break, Michael Griffith, Cedric Sandiford, and Timothy Grimes walked along a street in Howard Beach, Queens. ...
14. Arts Beat
In May 1986, the Coopers’ youngest daughter, Jocelyn (Jo-An), graduated from Hampton University with a degree in mass communications arts. Formerly Hampton Institute, the college had recently upgraded to university status. After graduating from Thomas Dewey High School in 1982, ...
15. Journalist of the Year
In the February 4 City Sun, staff writer Phil Farai Makotsi reported that jury selection was about to begin for a trial in which four black journalists from the New York Daily News sued the nation’s largest-circulation metropolitan newspaper for racial discrimination. ...
16. Tawana Brawley
On Wednesday, November 25, the City Sun front page led with near-climatic developments in the Howard Beach trial. That issue’s headline read: “Will Hynes’ case Hold Up under Lawyer’s Offensive?” Charles Hynes was the special prosecutor battling Stephen Murphy and other lawyers who represented the Howard Beach teenagers. ...
17. Mayoral Race
In winter 1989, political observers were looking ahead to September. Would Ed Koch run for a fourth term as mayor? He was still popular with ethnic whites in big boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens and in near-homogeneous Staten Island. But many liberal and progressive whites in Manhattan were weary ...
18. Dinkins’s First Months
Mayor Dinkins was in office for only two weeks when his administration faced a new racial confrontation. On January 18, 1990, at Bong Jae Jang’s Red Apple green grocer store in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood, a Haitian immigrant woman accused Jang and two of his employees of assaulting her for allegedly stealing. ...
19. Crown Heights Riot
Leid and Cooper recognized a political change that would profoundly shape New York City politics for future decades. The duo’s understanding of the city councilmanic phenomenon affirmed the Cooper-Leid genius. They saw that story and pursued it when the mainstream media missed or ignored it. ...
20. The Breakup
Farhan Haq joined the City Sun staff in summer of 1991, the season of the Crown Heights riot. His reporting beat was international affairs. Haq was twenty-four and had previously reported for the Amsterdam News after earning his master’s degree in English literature from Yale University. ...
21. Setting Sun
During the City Sun’s Christmas holiday hiatus, the New York Times published Andy Cooper’s “Two Nations of Crown Heights” op-ed essay. Bankrupt again and without Utrice Leid, Cooper resumed publishing on January 12, 1993. Leid soon landed at left-leaning radio station WBAI-FM ...
By February 1997, four months after the closing of the City Sun, Maitefa Angaza, the newspaper’s last executive editor, described the general state of the black press as “a medium in crisis.” With her feisty former newspaper vanquished, the Amsterdam News stood at the top of the heap as the undisputed leader of New York City black weeklies, ...
Harry Allen, a self-identified hip-hop activist and media assassin, wrote for magazines such as the Source (“The Unbearable Whiteness of Emceeing: What the Eminence of Eminem Says about Race,” 2003) and was profiled in a 1995 Wired magazine article, “Rap Dot Com.” ...
About the Author
Wayne Dawkins joined Trans Urban News service as a volunteer in June 1977. Weeks before, he graduated from Long Island University. In January 1978 he was hired as a reporter-researcher and stayed until the grant-funded project ended in summer 1979. That September he began studies at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. ...
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