Interview with Elizabeth Cooper and Jane Cooper Johnson
Date of interview
Elizabeth Cooper was the plaintiff in the Federal lawsuit desegregating Richmond City Public Schools. She and her daughter, Jane Cooper (Johnson), discuss their role in desegregating Richmond's schools; their lawyer, Oliver W. Hill, Sr.; and the types of obstacles and harassment Jane faced by fellow students when she was the first African American to integrate Richmond's Westhampton Junior High School (under a U.S. Desegregation Court Order) and the first African American to integrate Thomas Jefferson High School.
Some historical background: In 1958, an application was filed with the Richmond City School Board on behalf of the plaintiff, Mrs. Elizabeth B. Cooper, requesting that her daughter, Jane, be transferred from the all-black George Washington Carver Elementary School to the all-white Westhampton Elementary School. Two other plaintiffs joined Mrs. Cooper; however, they eventually withdrew. Attorneys representing the case were Oliver W. Hill, Roland D. Ealey, Martin A. Martin, and Samuel. W. Tucker. The application was forwarded to the Virginia Pupil Placement Board. In turn, the State Board was ordered to submit a plan for the integration of Richmond City Public Schools. The State Board, however, denied the application that same year.
As a result, a suit was filed with the Federal District Court, requesting the court to order Jane admission to Westhampton Elementary School. The segregation case continued over a three-year period. In July 1961, Jane was granted admission to attend Westhampton Junior High School, under a Supreme Court order, which was handed down by Judge Oren R. Lewis (1902-1983), U. S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia. The initial application was filed requesting attendance at Westhampton Elementary School; however, by the time the ruling from the Supreme Court was handed down, Jane was entering junior high school. On September 5, 1961, at the age of 12 years old, Daisy Jane Cooper, was the first African American student to integrate Westhampton Junior High School under a U.S. Desegregation Court Order.
After graduating from Westhampton in June 1962, the following September, Jane enrolled as a freshman at Thomas Jefferson High School. In September 1962, Daisy Jane Cooper, at the age of 13 years old, was the first African American student to integrate Thomas Jefferson High School. Jane Cooper graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in June 1966.
This interview was conducted March 21, 2003 at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. Ronald E. Carrington, President of Media Consultants Global, Inc. of Richmond, was the director-producer of the video taping and interviewed the interviewees. Historian Dr. Betsy Brinson conducted preliminary oral interviews. The text of the oral history was transcribed by Halasz Reporting and Video, Richmond. Other editing by the staff of Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries.
Cooper, Elizabeth;Johnson, Jane Cooper
oral history; moving image; text
Virginia Civil Rights Movement Video Initiative
Carrington, Ronald E.
James Branch Cabell Library. Special Collections and Archives