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William Arthur Cooper papers, 1918-1941

Cooper, William Arthur, 1895-1974

Painter, Lawyer, Minister, Educator


Collection Information

Size: 1 Microfilm reel, 500 items

Summary: This microfilm collection of William Arthur Cooper papers contains biographical materials; correspondence conerning portrait commisions, art lectures, and exhibitions; financial records including account books and receipts; notes and a report concerning Cooper's "good will" tour; Cooper's publication Educating Through Fine Arts, and his book A Portrayal of Negro Life (1936), as well as documents related to the book including proposed plans, sales records and draft typescript, which contains portraits not included in final version. Also included are price lists for works of art; printed material including exhibition catalogs, clippings, and ABCs of Great Negroes by Charles C. Dawson; and photographs depicting Cooper, his friends and church members, and his works of art.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Arthur Cooper (1895-1974) was an African American minister, lawyer, and painter in North Carolina. His paintings depict African American 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 paintings and gave lectures on art and Black culture.


Lent for microfilming 1984 by Jimmy Lee Taylor, who discovered the papers 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. The originals are now owned by the Special Collections & University Archives, J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Language Note

English .

Location of Originals

  • Originals in: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Special Collections and University Archives.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reel 3175 available at Archives of American offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

The Archives of American art does not own the original papers. Use is limited to the microfilm copy.

How to Cite This Collection

William Arthur Cooper papers, 1918-1941. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.