LIBRARY OPERATING STATUS: The Richard E. Bjork Library is open now. Occupancy is limited to 141 people and all patrons must wear a mask. Curbside service is also available. Librarians are available for virtual reference.
This collection contains the briefcase James Cooper used on his trip to Mississippi in 1966 and the documents from his work there as a volunteer in the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Within this briefcase, James Cooper kept original notes, drafts, memoranda, and photographs as well as other contents that capture the essence of racism in the South during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The notes are detailed accounts of the violent and poor treatment of African Americans in 1966. Photographs also demonstrate how deeply segregated the South was during his visit, which included trips to a doctor’s office, a housing development, and a county jail. Also contained are Cooper’s notes for the public presentation he gave upon his return to Atlantic City at Beth Israel.
The collection also contains information relating to court procedures in Mississippi and reference materials, such as case law and procedures from supporting organizations. While the bulk of the materials are from his two-week trip in early 1966, some of the research materials are from earlier in the 1960s.
The collection does contain notes relating to the legal cases he advised in Mississippi. Materials do not appear to breach lawyer-client privilege, and the statute of limitations for these cases has expired. Researchers are requested to alert the archivist if there is any material that does violate lawyer-client privilege.
Brianna DeCicco, Special Collections Intern, Fall 2018.
James Cooper (far right), possibly with other lawyers from the Committee in Mississippi, 1966. Stockton University Archives and Special Collections, Richard E. Bjork Library, Stockton University.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law is an organization that formed in 1963, at the request of President John F. Kennedy, to protect the constitutional rights of those participating in the Civil Rights movement. These lawyers joined on a voluntary basis to represent disenfranchised African Americans who were being denied legal counsel on criminal matters, and the lawyers also filed affirmative action suits to desegregate public places, to reduce harassment of Civil Rights workers by law and other government officials, as well as police officers and prosecutors who were violating constitutional rights set forth by the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
James Cooper already had an established law firm, Arkus & Cooper, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, when he volunteered to participate in the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Cooper went to Natchez, Mississippi in late January 1966 and was assigned several cases during his two-week stay. After his return to Atlantic City, he gave a public presentation about his experiences in Mississippi and continued to advocate for civil rights and volunteerism throughout his career.
While Stockton University’s Bjork Library’s Special Collection and Archives owns the collection; Stockton may not own the copyright for all of the items. Researchers wishing to reproduce materials are responsible for obtaining the proper permissions.