Cooper, Andrew W. 1928–2002
Andrew W. Cooper 1928–2002
Through his political activism and commitment to taking on hot issues, self-educated journalist and businessman Andrew W. Cooper forever changed the landscape of his community. Although Cooper was both lauded and panned for his nearly half-century of commitment to his fellow African Americans, he was never ignored.
A native New Yorker, Cooper was born and raised in Brooklyn, where he was to become a lifelong resident. According to the New York Association of Black Journalists website, his brother, Robert, told the group assembled at Cooper’s memorial service that Cooper’s early battle and victory over a stuttering problem helped make him the man he would later become. “If you want to remember my brother, remember him as a fighter.”
At the age of 23, Cooper went to work for the F&M Schaefer Brewing Company, where he would spend the next twenty years until 1971. During those years he set his sights on the larger community. In the mid-1960s, when civil rights issues were coming to the forefront across the nation, Cooper spearheaded a federal lawsuit that would forever change the face of Congress. At the time, congressional districting divided the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn into five separate districts. Despite the fact that the neighborhood was overwhelmingly populated by African Americans and Hispanic Americans, each district was represented by a Caucasian.
Cooper became the lead plaintiff in a landmark federal lawsuit, Cooper v. Power, which challenged the districting, and which was, in his widely quoted words, “tortuous, artificial, and labyrinthine.” Other lawsuits followed, and in 1968, the existing districting was effectively overthrown. The following year, Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman to sit in Congress, as the representative for New York’s newly created 12th Congressional District.
In the 1970s Cooper became determined to fill what he saw as a void in the field of journalism. He felt that not only was there little news being reported by the primarily white media that was of relevance to the African-American community, but there were few trained minority journalists to take on such reporting. Cooper created Trans-Urban News Service (TUNS) in 1977, in a two-room office. TUNS’s dual purpose was to train minority journalists and produce relevant reporting. The service rapidly became known as the premier organization of its type, and major newspaper and radio outlets began subscribing to the service. But according to the website of Utrice C. Leid, a woman who worked with Cooper during this venture, “it soon became the pattern that mainstream news organizations subscribing to the service found its editorial offerings ‘too hot’ politically or ‘too Black.’ Although they were paying for the service, many mainstream clients did not make use of the TUNS’s stories.”
Cooper is perhaps best remembered for his newspaper, the City Sun. From 1984 until 1996, the weekly publication covered news relevant to African-American New Yorkers. Its specialty was investigative journalism focusing on current events, racism, and other events affecting this community. The New York Times quoted
Born in 1928 in Brooklyn, NY; died January 28, 2002; married Jocelyn; children: Andrea, Jocelyn.
Career: F&M Schaefer Brewing Co., executive, 1951-71; journalist for Amsterdam News, Village Voice, and others, 1970s-02; Trans-Urban News Service, director. 1977-80s; City Sun, publisher, 1984-96.
Memberships: National Newspaper Publishers’ Association, regional vice chairman; One Hundred Black Men, Inc.; National Urban Affairs Council, adviser; Addiction Research and Treatment Corporation, director; American Management Association, adviser; Brooklyn Hospital Center, Caledonia campus, trustee.
Awards: Journalist of the Year, National Association of Black Journalists, 1987.
his wife, Jocelyn, as saying, “That’s what he was about, providing important information to his constituents, who were black.”
Described by Quill as a newspaper “on the must-read list of many black New Yorkers,” the Citi; Sun’s motto was “Speaking Truth to Power.” This motto was taken from a Quaker idea that people in power can only see clearly when confronted with the truth. Not surprisingly, the truth, as Cooper reported it, was usually favorable to African Americans. In 1987, when Tawana Brawley, an African American, cried rape and assault against several white men, her community, including Cooper, rallied behind her. The allegations were later proven to be fabricated. Years later, when O. J. Simpson was on trial for murdering his Caucasian wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, the black media stood behind him. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, Cooper personally described Simpson as a “sleaze,” but the City Sun officially defended Simpson. Cooper was quoted as saying, “Black folks are sympathetic to any black folks caught in the criminal justice system because it is a racist system.”
The paper was, however, not exclusively sympathetic to African Americans, especially not to those in positions of power. The City Sun criticized David Dinkins, the first African-American mayor of New York City, on several occasions. For instance, in 1993 an editorial addressed to Dinkins read, “Frankly, you are beginning to look like a wimp.”
The City Sun shut down in 1996 because of financial difficulties. According to Wayne Dawkins in Black World Today, “the IRS claimed it owed back taxes in the six-figure range. Cooper, 69 at that time, told me he did not want to live out his retirement years destitute. He walked away from his enterprise.” It was truly the end of an era for many New Yorkers.
In addition to TUNS and the City Sun, Cooper wrote investigative articles for the Village Voice and other alternative newspapers. He was the author of “One Man’s Opinion,” a column which ran weekly in the Amsterdam News. According to the New York Association of Black Journalists website, Cooper was called “Andy ‘The Axman,’” but the Association added that he was also “tender and had an undying love for the downtrodden in general.”
Cooper died on January 28, 2002, at the age of 74, following a stroke. A memorial service was held at the First Presbyterian Church in Cooper’s beloved Brooklyn on February 15th. He was survived by his wife, Jocelyn, and two daughters, Andrea and Jocelyn.
New York Times, January 30, 2002, p. B7.
Quill, April 2002, p 48.
African-American History, http://www.triadntr.net/~rdavis/chisholm.htm
Black World Today, http://www.tbwt.com
Andrew Cooper Memorial, http://www.nyabj.org/acmemorial.html
College Resources, New York Times, http://www.college4.nytimes.com
Utrice C. Leid, http://www.wbaifree.org/talkback
NY Association of Black Journalists, http://www.blackjournalist.com
Columbia Journalism Review, http://www.cjr.org/year/94/6/black.asp
—Helene Barker Kiser
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