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Ann Nixon Cooper
Born Ann Louise Nixon Cooper
January 9, 1902(1902-01-09)
Shelbyville, Tennessee
Died December 21, 2009 (aged 107)
Atlanta, Georgia
Occupation Activist
Known for Invoked in President Barack Obama's acceptance speach

Ann Louise Nixon Cooper (9 January 1902 – 21 December 2009) was a centenarian used in United States President-elect Barack Obama's November 2008 election speech as a representative of the change in status African Americans had undergone during the past century and more in America. Before that, she was a noted member of the Atlanta African-American community and an activist for Civil rights.

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Biography

Cooper was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee, on January 9, 1902, and raised in Nashville.[1] She moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in her early twenties with her husband, Albert Berry Cooper, a dentist,[1] and they had four children together.[2] During that time, she served more than fifty years in public work on the board of Gate City Nursery Association and also helped found the Girls Club for African American Youth.[3] Because there were no integrated Boy Scout troops in 1930's Atlanta, she wrote to the Boy Scouts in New York for help in starting Troop 95, Atlanta's first Boy Scout troop for African Americans.[4] When her husband died, Martin Luther King, Jr. sent Cooper a telegram; she also met with Coretta Scott King and saved photographs of the occasion.[5] Cooper first registered to vote on September 1, 1941. Though she was friends with elite black Atlantans like W. E. B. Du Bois, John Hope Franklin and Benjamin Mays, she didn't exercise her right to vote for years, because of her status as a black woman in a segregated and sexist society.[6]

During the 1970s, she served as a tutor to non-readers at Ebenezer Baptist Church. She also served on the Friends of the Library Board, serving at one time as vice president of the board. In 1980 she received a Community Service Award from Channel 11 for being one of the organizers of the black Cub Scouts and serving as the first den mother for four years.

She was also awarded the Annie L. McPheeters Medallion for community service from the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History in 2002.[2]

International fame

Still living in Atlanta, Cooper voted early for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.[7] After Obama won the election, she came to international attention when Obama mentioned her and compared various stages of her life to the present day during his acceptance speech at a rally in Chicago on November 4, 2008.

"She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin,"

President Obama also made reference to Cooper in his popular campaign chant, Yes We Can:

"And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: 'Yes we can'."

Age issue

When featured in Obama's 2008 speech, Ms Cooper was 106 years old. Some news outlets erroneously reported her as "oldest voter"[8] even though there were several older voters, including then-114-year-old Gertrude Baines, 113-year-old Beatrice Farve, 112-year-olds Maggie Renfro and George Francis, 110-year-olds Virginia Call and Onie Ponder, and 109-year-olds Nettie Whittington and Amanda Jones (all voted for Obama); and 112-year-old Besse Cooper and 109-year-old Gertrude Noone (who voted for McCain).

Ann Nixon Cooper died on December 21, 2009, days before what would have been her 108th birthday.

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