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Ollie Cooper

Object Details

Phillip Ratner
Ollie Cooper
c. 1977
Graphite on paper
Frame: 18 1/4 × 15 1/4 × 3/4 in. (46.4 × 38.8 × 1.9 cm)
Attorney Ollie Cooper (1887 – 1981) was a trailblazer for women and people of color aspiring to legal careers. Cooper graduated from Howard University’s School of Law in 1921. At that time, only twelve other women could claim this accomplishment. Cooper was among the founders of the Epsilon Sigma Iota sorority at the Howard University School of Law. On October 11, 1926 she was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar. She partnered with Isadore Letcher, another Black woman, and opened a law firm specializing in landlord-tenant law and wills and probate. Cooper held leadership positions in the National Law Association and the Washington Bar Association. After her retirement in the 1960s, she remained active in the Howard University and Washington, D.C. communities, contributing her legal expertise to civil rights cases. In 1978, the Washington Bar Association began presenting the annual Ollie May Cooper award to members in recognition of their outstanding service, leadership, and efforts to enhance the image of the legal community at large.
In 1977, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum’s Board of Directors voted to include Cooper’s portrait in “Phil Ratner’s Washington,” an exhibition honoring current and former Anacostia residents who contributed to the civic life of the community.
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