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William Arthur Cooper papers, 1918-1941

Cooper, William Arthur, 1895-1974

Painter, Lawyer, Minister, Educator


Collection Information

Size: 500 items (on 1 microfilm reel).

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.


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.

Location of Originals

  • Originals in: University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

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.