William Arthur Cooper papers, 1918-1941

Cooper, William Arthur, b. 1895 d. 1974
Painter, Educator, Lawyer, Minister
Active in N.C.

Collection size: 500 items (on 1 microfilm reel).

Collection Summary: Biographical materials; correspondence, concerning portrait commisions, lectures on art, and exhibitions of his work; two account books containing expenditures; receipts; a journal, 1935, containing expenditures and notes concerning his "good will" tour; a report on the tour; Cooper's publication EDUCATING THROUGH FINE ARTS; his book A PORTRAYAL OF NEGRO LIFE, 1936, which contains reproductions of his portraits acompanied by his explanatory text, and documents related to the book including proposed plans, sales records, and a typescript of the book which contains portraits not included in the published version; price lists for Cooper's paintings; exhibition catalogs, clippings, miscellany, and a book by Charles C. Dawson, ABCs OF GREAT NEGROES; and 36 photographs of Cooper, of his friends and church members, and his portrait paintings.

Biographical/Historical Note: William Arthur Cooper, black preacher, lawyer, and artist, painted the portraits of Negro field hands, domestic servants, children, religious and civic leaders and business executives. As a member of the North Carolina Interracial Commission, Cooper made a "good will" tour to colleges and universities in North Carolina where he exhibited his portraits and lectures on art and black culture.

The lender, Jimmy Lee Taylor, discovered Cooper's papers and about 20 of his paintings beneath the floor boards of an abandoned shed in Charlotte, N.C. The shed was owned by Cooper, who apparently left everything when he moved to St. Louis circa 1940. Taylor claims that a vision led him to the art works and documents. Taylor sold the papers to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

How to Use this Collection

  • Microfilm reel 3175 available at Archives of American offices and through interlibrary loan.
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