"Respecting a person's
difference is a reflection
of our character."
Daisy Jane Cooper, widely recognized as Jane Cooper Johnson, was born in 1948 in Richmond, Virginia, to Bettie Elizabeth Boyers Cooper and Cleveland L Cooper, Jr. Raised as an only child, her early years unfolded in the Westwood Community located in the far west end.
In 1958, a significant turning point occurred when Civil Rights Attorney Oliver W. Hill, Sr. submitted an application to the Richmond City School Board on behalf of Jane's mother. The application aimed to transfer Jane from the all-black George Washington Carver Elementary School to the all-white Westhampton Elementary School. The case advanced to the State Pupil Placement Board, which ultimately denied the request, leading to a three-year federal lawsuit. Despite the challenges, this legal battle resulted in a groundbreaking federal court victory, impacting not only the citizens of Richmond and the Richmond City Public Schools, but also setting a precedent for other localities. This triumph meant that African American students no longer required permission from the State Board to attend a white school!
Therefore on September 5, 1961, in compliance with the U.S. Desegregation Court Order, Jane made history as the first African American student to integrate Richmond's Westhampton Junior High School. Thus, this milestone paved the way for African American students to access white schools. The following year, on September 6, 1962, she continued to break barriers by becoming the first African American student to integrate Thomas Jefferson High School.
Presently, Jane is enjoying her retirement from the Virginia Department of Education. She has transitioned to a licensed realtor and resides in Richmond. Her joy comes from quality time spent with family and friends, as well as active participation in community volunteer work. Jane's legacy is defined not only by her personal accomplishments but also by her dedicated community service. With four daughters, eight grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren, her impact is felt through generations. Jane also takes immense pride in having witnessed her grandson's graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School, the very school she played a pivotal role in integrating.
Elizabeth Cooper and Jane Cooper Johnson
VA Civil Rights Video Initiative
Oral histories of civil rights leaders in Virginia organized by the Virginia Historical Society, and produced by the Virginia Civil Rights Video Initiative. MORE
Recognition VA Board of Education
Recognition by the Virginia Board of Education in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the 1954 Supreme Court's Decision, Brown v. Board of Education.
Commendation VA General Assembly
Recognition: 40th H.S. Reunion
Recognition by classmates. MORE
Recognition by high school graduating class with a plaque installed at their high school. MORE
VA Historical Marker
Virginia Historical Marker dedicated to the Westwood Community.
Legacy of Elizabeth Cooper
Bettie Elizabeth Boyers Cooper, who helped end Richmond and Virginia's determined efforts in the 1950s to maintain racially segregated public schools has died. MORE
Proclamation by Richmond's City Council. MORE
Honorary Street Renaming
The sculpture, "Strides", was commissioned by Bon Secours Health System to recognize Westhampton School's place in the story of racial integration. MORE