In 1962, Ms. Annie Lee Cooper moved to Selma to care for her elderly mother. Appalled by the fact that although she had been a registered voter in Pennsylvania and Ohio, she was unable to register to vote in Alabama. Cooper began to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. Her attempt to register to vote in 1963 resulted in her being fired from her job as a nurse at a rest home. In January 1965, Cooper stood in line for hours outside the Dallas County Courthouse to register to vote until Sheriff Jim Clark ordered her to vacate the premises. Clark prodded Cooper in the neck with a billy club until Cooper turned around and hit Sheriff Jim Clark in the jaw, knocking him down.
Deputies then wrestled Cooper to the ground as Clark continued to beat her repeatedly with his club. Cooper was charged with “criminal provocation” and was escorted to the county jail, and then held for 11 hours before being allowed to leave. She spent the period of her incarceration singing spirituals. Some in the sheriff’s department wanted to charge her with attempted murder. Following this incident, Cooper became a registered voter in her home state.
In the 2014 film “Selma”, Cooper was portrayed by Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey said that she took the role “because of the magnificence of Annie Lee Cooper and what her courage meant to an entire movement.”
Ms. Cooper passed away in 2010.