Last week, when President-elect Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech at Grant Park in Chicago, he specifically thanked the actions of one woman who took special pains to make her voice heard. That woman, Ann Nixon Cooper, is 106 years old. As Obama pointed out, she was born but one generation past slavery, in the days before cars, computers or cell phones. She was also born in the days before women, particularly Black women, had obtained the right to vote. Despite her age and all the physical ailments that come with it, Nixon Cooper left the Atlanta home she has lived in since 1937 to vote for Barack Obama.
“It’s just great!” Nixon Cooper says about the publicity she’s received since casting her ballot. “I may be sitting in my chair but there is always something on my mind.”
While she doesn’t remember the first time she voted, she does remember she was “good and grown” when it happened. Since African-Americans gained the right to vote some 43 years ago, Nixon Cooper would have been a mature 63 years old when she entered the voting booth the first time. “We’ve all forgotten those days,” she says, not wishing to focus on the struggles so many men and women encountered to obtain a right that was never intended for us.
But this election was different for so many, including Nixon Cooper, who voted for Obama because of what he proposed to bring to the country. “He offered the most different things for us…things that no one else had thought about before,” she says.
Born Ann Louise Nixon in Shelbyville, Tennessee, on January 9, 1902, Nixon Cooper was one of six children in her family. She married Albert Cooper, a prominent dentist, in 1922 when she was just 20 years old. They moved to Atlanta and started a family. Nixon Cooper was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and has always given back to the community, having cofounded a Girls Club for African-American youth and teaching people to read in a tutoring program at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
She remembers spending days with Alberta Williams King and her son, Martin Jr. Their sons were in class together. She sees a lot of similarities between Dr. King and the man who will be our forty-fourth president. “There will always be a connection between them,” she says. “Just like Martin, we’re all hoping that he’ll make things easier.”