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Who was Annie Lee Cooper? Well like Rudy used to say, ” At the age of one she was drinking whiskey and gin… and at the age of two she was eating the bottles it came in…”
Annie was born in 1910 in Selma, (Five Seconds), Alabama. They called it five seconds because if you was black that’s all the time they gave you back in them days.. Racist: “Boy I’ll give you five seconds to put a “sir” at the end of that sentence!!” Blackman: Massa can I go to the bathroom “sir.” Racist: “No… ” Selma was named by William King after a group of poems by the Scottish poet James Macpherson. The poems were called the “Songs Of Selma.”
The Flower Of The Confederacy
“There on the steps in the light she stood..
and we really wish a “%$$#@” would…
cause if he did, he’d end up dead…
Hung by folks with white hoods on dey heads.”
Okay…. I didn’t read the Songs of Selma… anywho, it had only been two generations since the Civil War when Annie was born. It was only a scant 45 years since the Battle Of Selma. Selma was the hub of the Confederate manufacturing base. It was a prime target of the Union and it wasn’t until one month before the war ended that they finally put it on them. Now guess who was down there defending Selma? None other than General Nathan Bedford Forrest, future leader of the Klu Klux Klan. Now I don’t want to get off topic, but I make a point of making sure people know who Forrest was whenever I mention his name in my articles. He was the Butcher Of Fort Pillow. On April 12, 1864, over 300 African American soldiers were killed after surrendering to an overwhelming confederate attack. They were summarily executed… some with their hands in the air. Most of the white soldiers were spared. The massacre proved to be a rallying point for black soldiers who thought that shat was ucked up. New African American troops joined by the thousands.. the war ended a year later. As for Forrest… he was never tried for the war crime. Anywho back to Selma.. So after the war the good folks in Selma was feeling some kinda way, especially during Reconstruction. Black folks was walking around with white women and wearing hats with feathers in them, eating watermelon and fried chicken on the same day, cussing at folks and looking them in da eyeball and shat… man they was just living dey best life! That’s because the federal government had stationed troops down there after the war. They stationed them down there to protect African Americans because of the resentment and ongoing threats of the returning confederate soldiers. “Black man with a feather in his hat: “Excuse me my good sir… may I borrow some Grey Poupon!” Yessiree… “Gimme that bomb bomb, bomb, bomb, Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb beat… Gimme the good life… ” Yep it was good…. that is until a little thing called the “Great Betrayal” occurred. Historically the Great Betrayal is called the Compromise of 1877. Black folks know it as the great betrayal. I wrote an article about it a few years ago which you can read here when you get a chance. So basically in 1877 during Reconstruction, a Republican President named Rutherford Hayes made a deal to get James Garfield (R) elected. He needed support in the south from the Southern Democrats to get him in. They promised to give him that support if he did one thing… remove the federal troops that had been stationed in the South for Reconstruction. Hayes agreed… Racist: “Now boy.. what was that about Grey Poupon?” All federal troops that were stationed in the South were moved to the North. After the troops left the south, a big black curtain was pulled across the stage of the Confederate States… a klansmen came to the mic and said “We will be right back.. well some of us will… ” When they opened the curtains again Jim Crow was the law of the land down south. In a matter of weeks, we went from eating watermelon and fried chicken… to eating hog maws and pig feet. For those who haven’t any idea what a hog maw is, well it’s like chitlins but it comes from a cow. Chitlins are the intestine of a pig and hog maws are a portion of a cow’s stomach. They look and taste similar. Anyway, by the time Annie was born in 1910, it would be another forty five years before Jim Crow would start to be dismantled and she would take her place in the fight for and the history of civil rights.
Spell “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in Arabic Backwards…
African American freedoms are basically enshrined in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution which were enacted after the Civil War. The 13th amendment abolished slavery, the 14th amendment granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States and the 15th amendment gave us the right to vote. So the 15th Amendment says you can’t bar a citizen from voting based on their race. After the 15th amendment was ratified in 1870 more than half a million African Americans registered to vote. They used their vote to elect official from the federal level all the way down to the city level. This is the time where folks was talking about ” I only eat my watermelon with salt on it..” Little did they know the day would come when they would be watching the racist eat watermelon with salt on it.. while dey was hanging from the top of a tree. It all started at the 1890 Mississippi State Convention. Mississippi state delegates voted for a new constitution which for the first time introduced a literacy test and poll tax for eligible voters. It was the beginning of the Jim Crow Era. So in the 1800’s very few white Americans knew how to read and still fewer African American knew how to read. So with a large portion of the white populace not knowing how to read, a way had to be devised to so that as Governor Vardaman said, ” we have to legislate against the racial peculiarities of the Negro. . . . ” They accomplished this with the literacy portion of the new law. Under the new literacy requirement, a potential voter had to be able to read any section of the Mississippi Constitution or understand any section when read to him, or “give a reasonable interpretation of any section. “ Give a reasonable interpretation… Applying the law could go like this; “Who is responsible for registering voters in Mississippi? ” White voter: “The Secretary Of The State?” Registar: “Why yes.. here’s your ballot!” … Next!! “Who is responsible for registering negra voters in the Great State of Mississippi by gawd boy!!? ” Black voter: “The Secretary Of The State suh?” Registar: Wrong boy!! I am!! Yahoo!! Don’t come back heh until you understand the constitution of the Great State Of Mississippi!!” Another way they got around illiterate whites was to include what is call the grandfather clause. If you grandfather was able to vote than you are able to vote. But if your grandfather was a slave.. well… So what about the few freed African Americans whose grandfather’s were able to vote? Well let’s just say.. “they wish you would come down there..” Anywho, another scheme they had was called the poll tax. Although it usually cost between $1 and $2 per year, it disproportionately affected black voters and when blacks started making enough to pay the tax, they put in a new stipulation.. all back taxes had to be paid first before you could pay the poll tax. Estimates say that after the new stipulation was enacted, black voter registration dropped by 50 percent. Black voter: “Suh I paid my taxes!! Here is my receipt!! ” Clerk: Boy that receipt don’t mean nuthin in heh.. I said you ain’t paid yo taxes and until you do, you ain’t voting in a white mans elections!! Yahoo!!” Black voter: Well we will see what the Sheriff has to say about this.!!” Black voter: “Sheriff that Clerk done did me harm on a count of him not letting me vote in the elections today! I got my tax receipt right heh!!” Sheriff: Let me see it boy.. (Sheriff takes it and tears it up, then throws it on the floor..) Boy is that yo receipt there on da floor?” Black voter: Yes suh but… Sheriff: It is? Well boy don’t you know there is a law against littering… Bo lock him up.. Yahoo!!” Okay? It just wasn’t worth it at the time. Soon all other southern states enacted the laws that were passed at the 1890 Mississippi state Convention.
When That Device Fails..
As the decades ticked by and Jim Crow got older, it became less effective. Blacks were better off economically and educationally. We owned businesses and many of us had college degrees, especially down south where most of our higher institutions of learning were located. So a while back I talked about a Mississippi Governor named Vardaman and how he said in 1890, “In Mississippi we have in our constitution legislated against the racial peculiarities of the Negro,” which kicked off the era of Jim Crow. What I didn’t tell you was what he said after he said that… “When that device fails, we will resort to something else.” So with the ineffectiveness of Jim Crow, the seeds of civil rights began to be planted. Most black historians agree that the killing of Emmett Till in 1955 was the catalyst of the modern civil rights era. The silent generation was ova… and our grandparents marched and picketed and fought and bled and died for an idea that previous generations were denied.. equality under the law. That meant the right to be treated as equals and the right to vote. Now many of us think that the generation before the Baby Boomers was called the Great Generation, but it was not. The Great Generation was the generation that fought in WWI. The ones that fought in WWII were called the Silent Generation. They were silent alright.. but like Grandma use to say” What you do in the dark will come to the light..” In 1962 Annie Cooper returned to Selma to look after her ailing mother after having lived with her sister for a time in Kentucky. After she returned she realized that black folks were still not allowed to vote in Alabama.. by gawd boy!! She recalled how after taking literacy test after literacy test she never passed them. About this time a new crew from up North came down South and began rewriting history. We know them as SNCC, ( Student Non-Violent Coordinating Commitee.) They was talking about kicking it and taking names… So I’m not sure where the non violent stuff came in.. but uh… Cooper was immediately drawn to them. So this wasn’t Cooper’s first time at the rodeo, she had been with the Dallas County Voter’s League and had gained some activist experience with them. We are not talking about Texas now.. Selma is in Dallas County, Alabama and they were instrumental in getting black voters registered. Now if you are like me.. you might be wondering why in the world did Alabama and Texas come up with the same name for a city and county in their respective locations? I mean I could understand if they named them something like Klux County or Klan City.. but I just couldn’t figure it out.. at first… The places were named after a man called George M. Dallas. (pictured above) He was the 11th vice president of the United States under James K Polk. His term was from 1845- 1849, right in the crux of the debate on slavery in the states. I mean ten years after he left office, John Brown raided the Armory at Harpers Ferry W.V and was subsequently hanged. His death signaled the prelude to the Civil War. Anywho, on the surface Dallas doesn’t look like he has an opinion on slavery one way other the other… until you dig a little deeper… and find out he was a proponent of a philosophy called “Manifest Destiny.” Now if you was a fly on the wall at a Klan meeting and somebody didn’t kill you and put you in their beer and drink you down on a dare... then you would probably hear the words manifest destiny being thrown all over the place. So what is manifest destiny? It is the concept of Manifest Destiny that it was “the divinely ordained right of the United States to expand its borders to the Pacific Ocean and beyond.” But in Klandom the US not only had the divinely ordained right to expand it borders, but also it pro-slavery philosophy. It was the reason that Native American were forced from their lands, Texas was taken from Mexico and Cuba was invaded. Racist had taken the term even a little further with respects to an already established country… “It is the divinely ordained right of the (insert something here) to ( insert something here.) So yeah, I could see them naming something after George Dallas.
Back To Annie..
(R) Sheriff James Clark getting ready to attack and CT Vivian
So like I said this wasn’t Annie’s first rodeo. After her employer found out she was working with the Dallas County Voters League, well they gave her “five seconds” to leave the premises. Why did they do that? It didn’t phase Annie and she got another job as a motel clerk and went full Rambo on a Mo! She officially and without reservations joined the Civil Rights movement and pledge herself to fight white supremacy in the South. From now on it would be nothing but marches, sit ins, protests and pickets for her. Two years later Annie would walk into Civil Rights history on February 5, 1965. In 1965 the Sheriff of Dallas County was James Gardner Clark Jr. Clark was a hard, cotton pickin, redneck racist of the 10 degree. Y’all remember Epp’s in 12 years a slave.. he was Solomon master and was the one who said ” And that servant, which knew his lord’s will… which knew his lord’ s will… and that servant did not prepare himself… did not prepare… will be beaten with many stripes.. beaten with many stripes…” Well him and Gardner was brother’s… Gardner was known for being violent toward African Americans generally and African American protesters specifically. He recruited the Ku Klux Klan to keep Black Alabamians away from the voting booths, violently beat and arrested non-violent protesters, and even used cattle prods on Black citizens. He was a real SOB. He was first put on blast when a Washington Post reporter took a picture of him beating civil right activist Amelia Boynton. She was one of the leaders in Selma marches and was photographed being beaten unconscious after trying to help another person who had been injured in the attack on the Freedom Fighters crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma during the Selma to Montgomery marches. After the photo was published Gardner was commended. He was a vile little man. So much so that when he died in 2007 the Washington Post obituary was said to have celebrated the news of his death. Gardner is also the man you may have seen striking revered activist CT Vivian in the face knocking him down, when Vivian told him he wasn’t going to leave the courthouse until after he registered. The CT Vivian attack was widely published and I am sure a lot of you have seen it.
Anyway about a month before that is when Annie Lee Cooper would come to be a household name at the time. In January of 1965 when Annie and some other activist try to register to vote, Gardner poke her in the neck with his billy club try to prevent her from entering the building. What he do that for…? In the words of that time, when he hit Annie with that billy club, she gave him what was known at that time as a “two-piece and a biscuit,”.. their words not mine. She clocked his racist azz and must have knocked him down!! I have searched and searched for a shot of that, but to no avail. Everybody wanted to see Gardner get his and after it happened, everybody wrote about it… in this country and internationally. Of course she had to be arrested for attacking a peace officer, but even the deputies knew she couldn’t stay there in that jail. Gardner swore to gawd, he was gonna beat her natural black azz!! So they released her. That was in January of 1965. A few months later on August 6, 1965, the Voting right Act of 1965 was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson. Four generations that lasted 80 years had lived under Jim Crow and now it was over.
What happened to Annie?
In later years Annie settled into a life befitting one who has climb to the mountain top. She lived a quiet and peaceful life. For her sacrifice and courageous fight against white supremacy and racism, Selma named a street in her honor, Annie Lee Cooper Avenue. Annie died on Nov. 24, 2010, at the Vaughan Regional Medical Center in Selma, Alabama. She was 100 years old.
This content was originally published here.