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University Libraries Acquire the Kenneth Cooper Papers

The Washington University Libraries recently acquired the Kenneth J. Cooper Papers, an archival collection of materials related to the life and work of WashU alum and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kenneth J. Cooper.

The acquisition represents a significant addition to the materials in the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections.

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Kenneth Cooper

Cooper graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. While at WashU, he was part of the Student Union, the Association of Black Students, and the Student Life newspaper. He has been a journalist for nearly half a century, specializing in government, politics, and social policy, at the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Knight Ridder, GBH News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and St. Louis American. In 1984, Cooper, then 28, shared a Pulitzer for special local reporting for “The Race Factor,” a Boston Globe series that examined institutional racism in Boston.

He became the youngest African American to win a Pulitzer for journalism, a milestone that stood for three decades. He is co-author with photographer Don West of Portraits of Purpose: A Tribute to Leadership. He continues to give back to WashU by serving on the Washington University Student Media Inc., which advises Student Life newspaper.

The collection includes over twenty linear feet of Cooper’s personal and professional material, including material from his time as a student at WashU, research and drafts of his articles and books, material from his time as a Fulbright Scholar and Harvard Fellow, and material from his travels.

“We are truly honored that Mr. Cooper has entrusted the Libraries with his collection. The collection, which spans his entire career, including his time as a WashU student, will not only serve as a valuable resource to scholars, but it will also serve as a source of inspiration for students seeking to effect change,” said Nadia Ghasedi, associate university librarian for the Special Collections, Preservation, and Digital Strategies division at the Washington University Libraries.

“I’m grateful and proud that my alma mater has agreed to archive my papers. It was at Washington University that I decided to become a journalist, started my career as an intern at The American and a news editor on Student Life, and took three journalism courses in the University College at night, the only ones I’ve ever taken,” said Cooper, who retired in 2022.

“As I sorted through my professional papers, a long walk down memory lane, I was struck by the depth of my research on such topics as race in American schools, the caste system in India, and the infamous murder by Charles Stuart of his wife in Boston.,” he added. “It became clear to me that deep research has been a hallmark of my career.”

The Kenneth J. Cooper Papers are currently being processed. They are part of the collections in the University Archives

For more information about the acquisition, please contact Sonya Rooney, university archivist.

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About the Author

Sonya Rooney
Job Title
University Archivist