ATL Black Art Legacy

A Digital History Project

The untold story of an unbelievable arts 

movement of Black folks in theater, film, government & business

Given Birth on Atlanta's Westside

and within the Atlanta University Center 


These stories were ignored, but they are Our History & with 

your help, I can keep telling them 

Atlanta doesn't have a Black History museum, just a very successful Trap House Museum

Additional Page Links are Above

All Photos & Stories are covered by full Copyright
No reprint or use allowed without the written permission of 
Albert B.Cooper, 
ABC4ATL Productions 
 Early Photos shot using 2 1/4 & 35mm Film & Cameras

About Me

Born a Blend
Part Black bourgeoisie & part Black working class.
Growing up
 I was just a sun burnt country kid in a small southern town with a lot of smart successful Black people around me.

My family lived working class with Bourgeoisie aspirations & influences
I saw both sides because 
Black business folks owned everything we needed. 
 We needed little help to survive and live well.

Then, in college I saw a comedic musical at Spelman's Rockefeller theater & had an epiphany. 
I saw the rest of my life as an artist.


Atlanta is my Home.
Thank God and the ancestors.

The Early Years...finding my tribe and my path Into an Atlanta Arts Renaissance

Like all great journey's, we all start small and alone. But, the sun will rise everyday. It's warm & bright it's glow leads us to the new day.
In my New Day..
I found a few like-minds with a shared vision—and ran with it. Today, that family of artists has grown into something we can be proud of.
We are Making Magic

1950's - 80's Life

My Father, his Father, his Father& Me

In Hunter Hills

Rev. Albert B. Cooper Sr., Dr A.B.Cooper Jr.
A.B.Cooper III
and little A.B.Cooper IV.
I remember the day we went to take this portrait.
A classic family portrait by a black photographer in his studio.
This photo set the tone for my life. It has meaning for me, even to this day.
Of Faith, Work done, & lives of meaning.
My Great Grandfather & Grand Father have amazing life stories. (Google them)
They succeeded despite the difficult world they were born into & because of them, many, many people have been touched by their Legacy.
A Powerful Lesson.
And I have to mention Ethel Murry & Ogletree side of the family. My mothers family.
I live in my Great Grandmothers Ethel Murrys' house, she bought in 1929.  Grand father  George Ogletree & Grand mother,
Whitman (Whit) Ogeltree raised me, loved me, fed & bathed me & clothed me. Their love keep me alive. I don't have any good mother side photos , will repost when I find them.

My Mother 

Gloria Ogeltree Cooper

A true Southern beauty. From a working class family in 4th Ward, Howard Middle school & Washington High. Then to Clark College.
Somewhere in the Auburn Ave. Clark-Morehouse mix she met a young Morehouse man, a rich one & Married him. A.B.Cooper.
He went to the Korean War & my birth interrupted her college years.
Momma was blend of uncompromising
decency, humor, kindness, sturdy hard work, & she was smart, especially in her common sense kinda way. She was a woman's woman. Having many close female friends of every age group.
 At home she loomed large in my life and made sure we kids, stayed on the Path.
She ruled me & my brothers & sister. Sometime firmly, sometimes not.
As children my brother  Mike & I were rambunctious boys. Touching, playing with, pulling on, examining & running everywhere.
Her discipline was legend. We knew it well. The Belt.
She would whoop us ,
( you gon act right? Yes mama!!!)
then feed us some great home cooking, then bath us, make us say our prayers, then put us to bed on clean sheets. And on Sunday make us get up early & go to church at Allen Temple AME. Every Sunday, even if she didn't go.
My father, too busy working 18 hr days, never disciplined us, or cooked, or washed clothes nor went to church with us. His business came 1st & yard work at the house next.
It was a beautiful life for me as a child. 


Ethel Thomas Murray, A Foundation of Love

My Great grandmother & the foundation of my mother side of the family.
From Lagrange Ga.
She worked as a domestic , mostly as a cook in rich Jewish families homes. She worked for the Lenthal's, mother would say.
She came to Atlanta , worked hard & by 1930 bought a home @ 375 Pine St in 4th Ward. She bought her own home, understand? And it had indoor plumbing & lighting.
It was in that 4th Ward home, where my mother & I lived  after I was born, since my father was at war in Korea. 

I still live in that home today.
She was everything. The Rock.
The working class side of my family. Filled with solid values, steady work ethic, quiet kindness, part of an extended network of other smart , church going, education oriented, responsible black females working to have stable families & a decent life.
With a no nonsense attitude toward people & life, she created a strong family structure, a safe , super clean environment for our growth in a warm home. And with great food to boot. 
Lots more to come in this story.
And there were men in the story, but "Murray"
as we called her dominated the home. And she barely talked much, except to her daughter, my grandmother, Whitman Ogletree.

.

Dr. A.B.Cooper Jr. & his church

Third from Left, front roe. The Deacons of First Congregational Church. 1930's ?
The Black men in Atlanta in the early 1900's create a business, political, social , church & economic community like no other in America.
What Atlanta is today for black people & the rest of the country is the result of their lives well lived.

.

Dr A.B.Cooper & Ann Nixon Cooper

My grandparents. were part of Atlanta's high society.
More coming on this story

Telegram from M.L.King on Dr. Cooper's passing

Martin Luther King  & Coretta sent this telegram on the passing of Dr. A.B.Cooper
Martin & Coretta were part of the same social groups as my Grand parents and their parents, Daddy King and his wife. 
Martin went to school at Howard High & Washington High with my mother.
She used to tell me , they called him, M.L.

Collier Heights Elementary School

My 1st Art project.
3rd Grade In Ms Grey's class. A foreshadowing.
Learn To Make Art.
We had a stereo & I would listen to my dads Jazz albums. One of the most beautiful was, The Genius of Ray Charles, 1959  you will get the vibe of my early  life then. 
 More later.

Albert St.
in Collier Heights 1962

Albert, Michael, Sheila & baby Tony.The Cooper kids.
We lived in the country. Albert St. had been dirt till 2 years before. Few neighbors, no traffic, loose dogs, bugs, snakes, trees, a lot of kids around the corner, a quiet life in a wooden 2 bedroom, 1 bath home with no air conditioning, and a floor furnace for heat.
A beautiful way to grow up.
The photo is me in the 7th grade.
Story;
My friends & I decide to enter in the school talent show. Not wanting to do a doo-wop singing group like every one else , we decided to be the biggest stars in the world, The Beatles. We were up against heavy completion from Terri Axam & The Lady Bugs, her semi-pro girls group.
With great costumes, the hair, suits, guitars & our singing We won! 
Once we hit the stage, the screaming Never stopped. The girls went wild & teachers were wide eyed. 
We became Superstars in elementary school.
And went on to an Atlanta City wide finals @ the Butler St. Y.M.C.A.
We didn't win , but got mobbed just like the real Beatles.
Lots of story here about growing up in Collier Heights in the 1950's



Cooper's Gulf Gas Station

 This photo is from the Gulf Oil Company print Ad for Ebony magazine. Advertising photography in the Hunter St business district. My father owned his business, was a one man economic engine. He hired many men, paid suppliers & vendors, made payroll, did accounting, cleaned the asphalt & bathrooms everyday, told stories, cussed,
( I had never heard my father cuss or especially say "Mother F_cker" before I stared working at the station, shocked i was)
he didn't finish Morehouse , had to support his growing family, & many did't think much of the business, it's just a gas station to many in the family.  But it was a thriving business in a unique location, directly across from Pascals' Motor Hotel. Where I saw world history being made, by our customers & neighbors
I saw it Live!

Being around the grown black people all day & the varied & unique customers was a lesson in growing up in the real world. 

Paschals, was 50 ft across the street, where all the Civil Rights leaders had their meetings, did their planning , ate lunch & dinner, stayed & organized , was in the middle of our bustling Black business district. We had everything black folk needed, and no white businesses.
It was a world unto itself, and in the 1960's, was one of the most important & influencial business districts in the United States.

Gulf Oil uses my brother,Tony Cooper in Ebony print campaign

1966. A multinational comes to middle class Black Atlanta home in Peyton Forest to do an advertising campaign. This visit shows me, my future Life in still photo production.
Most people in our community were proud of the black businesses we had developed. Service stations
"Gas stations" we called them. They provided essential services & products we needed & depended on. But gas stations held a special place. Part provider of  gas & oil, auto repairs, but also as a "way station" , a community gathering spot of sorts. Everybody came to the Gas Station.
They were & still are, a place to stop driving, stretch your legs, get some directions or other information, stocked with snacks, and cold drinks, maps, hot coffee, shelter from the elements, various items for car travel & helpful people . All provided by men of different backgrounds, who were handy & skilled with their hands and with mechanical & life knowledge.
It was hard, & dirty work, long hours, done mostly out in the elements. We had to pump the gas, check all the tires, clean front & back windows, check the oil, and then take the money, for every car.Our hands & clothes were constantly getting dirty with gas, oil, grease, grime, dirt & stains. Therefore some considered gas station guys 
just a bunch of grimy men with dirty, rough hands & stained clothes. And not too sophisticated
or educated. In other words, some black folk considered us, just the gas station guys. 
Not too high class. Just the merchant class, of not highly educated folks , not college educated.
The Gulf Oil company felt otherwise about people who sold their products. Gulf sent a commercial photographer to our home in Peyton Forest to do a print ad for Ebony & Jet magazines. 
A white woman with an expensive Hasselblad camera came, set up a toy gas station & took photos of my brother & then went to Hunter st. to take photos more at Cooper's Gulf Gas Station.
I had no idea that years later, as a location scout, I would be sought out & make a great living working with National & multinational companies on their ad campaigns.
  

1968 Southwest High School

First time in the South, the black middle class kids go to school with the white middle class kids.
But we were special. Our families owned their  own business's, bought, built & owned our homes.
We went to church, spoke well, cut the grass at our homes, and some of our kids even had cars.
We dressed well & knew we were going somewhere in life. And we acted like it. 
Our white classmates, few if any, had never met Black folk like us before.
The 1968 stories of being in class at white Southwest High, when Martin Luther King was assassinated 
are truly shocking
and painful.
More to come with this story.
Photo Credit: Sue Ross



1969 into the World. Clark College here I come.

After the Spring Break / Senior Trip to a local Lake where a classmate threw firecrackers at us,( black kids had no idea about Spring Break, no Panama City beach for us) we graduated & separated. 

Done with Collier Heights Elementary ( best of the West side in 1963-64) , Harper High(65-66) & Southwest High.
Highlights:
Sock hops, blue lights in da basement parties, Slow Dancing, a new dance every month (hully-gully, 4 corners etc)
cool hand made clothes, a tight haircut, no one had a car, pool dressed thugs, and great teachers.
President Kennedy killed, 1st time in school with white kids, Malcolm X killed, Martin Luther King killed, Bobby Kennedy killed, the Vietnam War & the draft, Hunter St black business district alive & well, Stevie Wonder,  The Jackson 5, James Brown, The Beatles, 1st Man on the Moon , Dionne Warwick, and hearing Jimi Hendrix for the 1st time (at a white oerson home) And the song of the year,
Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" !
 The hippie's in Atlanta on Peachtree St during the Summer of Love.
It was on BABY!!
Oh, 2 classmates from Southwest High in the 1960's you may have heard of are Paula Wallace, founder of S.C.A.D.
And Ernest Stanley O'Neal, President & Coo of Merrill Lynch.  

Clark College in a special program

1969, Best of the Best students from black families across the USA, in an Old , Hip, cool, forward thing, smart, safe,
 nurturing environment of 6 colleges for educating young black folks. Whats Not to Love.

Everyone in the Balck Pearl playing bid Wisk.( Our burger joint) $1.00 white bread, lettuce & tomato Chicken sandwichs in the Fair St. Bottom which was next to the 1960's round  Ultra Modern apartment, & it's club,The BirdCage where Ramsey Lewis Trio would play.

Me in the unique 13 College program. 30 freshman in a special program for student retention. We only went to class with our program members.
No remedial English or Math classes for us.

The program exposed us to many advanced subjects the rest of the school didn't get, like computer programing, code writing, nuclear engineering and the NASA space program. I wanted to study Astrobiology. (Didn't exist at the time)
 Here we are on a bus going to Washington DC.
and to the Supreme Court , where Judge Thurgood Marshall came out & spoke to us.
As a Clark freshman my high school classmate, Ernest Stanley O'Neal & I went to see a play @ Spelman College that change my Life & America. And "Stan", changed the film industry as well. More on this story later on. It's a Good One.  

Spelman College Rockefeller Theater  

The Lights came up, and I was never the same..

1971
 Went to see a play with my friend
Ernest Stanley O'Neal. Titled, "God is a Guess What?" .
My epiphany moment.
Blew my mind!
"Edu-Tainment", Black Story telling.
Political theater, intellect, broad comedy, sweet music, dancing & production professionalism
in Atlanta theater. And no one had said a word about it.
That play on the Spelman stage set the course for my life.  In those days theater in the Atlanta University Center allowed anyone, to come audition to be in a play. If they had the talent, were'n't crazy, they could get cast. Even a non student. Non Traditional Teaching at it's Best. The whole community could benefit from this education resource. Brilliant!!!
Learning this fact,  I knew I'd be back for more. Now I had to go do work. Learn the Art of Acting. It took a year.

Photo: Ananse, an African Play, Baldwin Burrows director
Eddie Billups
in front

At a Card Party with Ernest Stanley O'Neal  

1971
Ernest (now Stan O'Neal), was a good friend of mine. We graduated from Southwest together & continued to hang  after entering college. He would come home from General Motors Institute & we'd pal around to all the cool happenings available for black college kids to do. This was a Bid Whist party off Linkwood Rd in Collier Heights.
Ernest was also the guy who was with me when I saw the play 
"God is a Guess What?" at Spelman College.The play that changed my life.

But Ernest was no ordinary cat. He is a big deal. He single- handedly
changed America on 2 fronts,
1st he became the 1st Black 
COO-President of Merrill Lynch.
A  major Wall St. investment firm.
Then while he was President, he signed off on a deal to fund
the Biggest Film Studio in the USA.
More details coming 


Dr. Carlton Molette & Barbara Molette

1971 Spelman College.
The Molette's were drama Instructors at Spelman,  playwrights, theater producers, and creators of a black theater movement at Spelman college.
If not for them I would have never seen "God is a Guess What', by Ray McIver, never met Latanya, Sam, Bill Nunn Afemo, Andrea Frye or Baldwin Burroughs.
And I wouldn't be telling this story.
They are life guiding spirits in a time of great change in my life & in  the Arts in Atlanta.

Acting Classes with Stewart Culpepper 

1971
After seeing how professional the actors were at Spelman College, I knew I needed some classes.
So I found Stewart Culpepper's acting classes & attended for about a year. Working with Stewart I met Jim & Sally Way, Phillip Pleasants, &
Jim Peck
. They were the top theater professionals in Atlanta in the 1970's. I absorbed 
as much acting knowledge as I could. Stewart was a great teacher , kind, encouraging & patient. And Thank God the class fees were really cheap.

Dr. B.S.Black Meeting my Artist Family

1972
I auditioned for the
 Morehouse-Spelman Players in the
 Spelman Fine Arts Theater. It had been about a year after seeing my 1st play there.
Upon being cast as a Morehouse-Spelman Player in Dr. B.S. Black I met, Samuel L. Jackson, Latanya Richardson & Bill Nunn.
I knew then, that the Great Spirit guided me here.
They became my Family.

Dr. Carlton Molette was director. 
I knew then this was a different group of "actors". Not your everyday "Play Acting" kinda folks.
Serious business
was on stage.

So glad I went & took some classes from some real Atlanta actors or I would not have been cast  & that would have been end of this story.

But I had done some study & classes with seasoned Atlanta actors. Stewart, Jim , Sally & 'nem. 
So when I came back to Spelman, I got an audition from Dr. Molette, and unbelievably
 I made the cut & walked onto the stage as an actor. 
The C student makes the cut.
Both Spelman College & Clark College drama departments had a non traditional theater program.
Wanna be actors,Young, aspiring, kids, teens, anyone from the Atlanta community could come & audition for the college plays. If you were a stronger actor than a student, you got cast. Insightful thinking made us all stronger
. Looking at theater, film & TV today, I feel we need some of that competitive training
from real teachers today.

LaTanya Richardson Jackson

Spelman College.
LaTanya, LT, the Queen, and the Truth as an Actor.
She was my/our guiding Light & still is. From the Westside & Harper High School. Upon walking on Spelman's stage for Dr.B.S.Black, she asked my name .I said Albert, she said I''ll call you Al, not Albert. I said , yes Ma'am, And I got my stage name. Al Cooper.
Thank You Latanya
Portrait; 7th St. studios

Samuel L. Jackson.

Morehouse College
Sam, Big Jack to me.
 My 1st portrait of him. c1974
 Samuel L. Jackson, an "Artist as a Grown Ass Man"
His flow & style, versatility,  along with an incredible acting skillset,  is hat American theater & film lacked. We see the evidence of that now in his career.
Sam and LaTanya are a powerful force as actors and as a couple.  I have been on stage with both and you gots to do Work, really work, to stand next to them.
So glad Tanya & Sam were smart enough to LEAVE Atlanta or I won't be telling this story and the world would be 2 Shinning Stars short.

William Goldwyn Nunn III

Morehouse College.
Bill Nunn was my best friend ever. An amazing & beautiful man.
Spent more time with him than with my own family.
We did a lot of teaching, acting in & producing theater, children theater & stand-up comedy as a team. Nunn & Cooper. We hung out everywhere. Once, while living at Sam's we  dropped into a corner bar in Harlem to grab a beer, & we found James Baldwin sitting at the bar, alone. We couldn't let that chance meeting slip by, so we introduced ourselves to our hero, joined him for a beer & talked for a good while. Hanging with Billy, I also met Art Rooney II, now president of the Pittsburg Steelers. He was in his 20's , like us, & in Atlanta with his father  for a game against the Falcons.
Billy's father, Bill Nunn Jr. was a legend in Professional Football. A scout & player personal director for the Pittsburg Steelers for 49 years, until his death in 2014 @ 89 yrs old.
In 2021, Bill Nunn Jr.  was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame with 6 Super Bowl rings to his credit.

On the Wall, watching da girls walk by Clark College

This is me & Sam on the wall with the Block Boys. Tony Moon & 'nem.
They were residents of Fair St Bottom housing project. Proper name was University Holmes Hosing project.
Da projects.
They were Not students and were feared by most students, because they would take your money, whoop, stab or just taunt & heckle you. Cause you were an uppity college student living in a poor black neighborhood, Their neighborhood and you didn't show respect.
 This scene is in Spike's "School Daze", but with me & Sam as Block Boys.
 
Sam wasn't afraid of the Block Boys, in fact he was an official memeber of "Da Block"...Sam had some thug in him. And the block boys respected that in Samuel L.Jackson. 
Me, just a punk kid happy to hang with the tuff guys, watch the pretty girls & not get my money taken, that day. 

Building Family

Clark College & Georgia State School of Nursing Life.
 1972

I was building my theater life & Carol Hogan & me were still in our 1st apartment. Bare, drafty, $85.00 p/mo.We were so happy. In theater & in school. 
One night, I had a dream, that Director Andrea Frye would offered me her 7th St. apartment next door to Tanya & Sam. Well a week after the dream, she actually offered my the apartment. The Great Spirit brought  a Blessing . 

Portraits
in the Projects

Hunter St.
Pittman Bros Studios was a small photo studio across from Cooper's Gulf. Next to the Busy Bee, that's where we got our soul food some days.
The owners wanted to hire me to go into the projects, & take family portraits. Price was $7.00. To pick up the prints the family would come to the studio where they would be offered  a package of 2x3, 3x5, 5x7 or 8x10 photo prints. 
So I took the job, put on my bellbottoms, got a Speedatron strobe pack, Yashica Twin Lens, 2 1/4 film & started knocking on doors. This photo is a sample of those portraits. 

Photograpy
is Life

My  wife Carol was a great model-muse for my early 1970 photographs. I was guided to be a photographer by the powerful storytelling in the visuals. I had been guided by the classic photos of the 30's,40's & 50's taken by black studio photographers. They were everywhere in Dr. A.B.Cooper home.

7th St. is Life 

The 7th St. apartments, there were only 6, was our Old World, European looking Artist Compound. We could lock the front door & walk up & down the stairs to each  apartment. 
 A Black Bohemian  artist utopia par excellence. In a sleepy southern town.
A Spare bedroom becomes a studio.
I set up my 1st studio in a spare bedroom. And was so happy. Artist at work! 
On Peachtree St. in 1974, the hippies, pot & Acid, peace & Love were in full force. White families  from the suburbs would cruise Peachtree St  by the hundreds, causing traffic jams up & down Peachtree St. Looking at Hippies was a Big tourist attraction. It was The Hottest Show in Town.
 The  Zoo was open and the animals roamed Free. These social oddities made Peachtree St. bet 5th to 17th St,  a real happening for the conservative citizens of Atlanta. Worth a ride into town to see the Damn Hippes!
All the Rock music, long hair, bell bottoms, guys playing guitars, flowers kids, paisley shirts, tank tops, corn rows, unwashed bodies, the peace sign, platform shoes, no bras & lots of pot was on open display.
Peachtree st. & Piedmont Park was a happening of southern hippie fun.
The amount of talent & creativity living there & passing through was amazing.
One day the FBI shows up looking for a guy running from the Patty Hearst kidnapping. I got audited by the IRS after they came by.
Had to pay $300, & Carol & I only made $7000 a year.
Bob Marley, Al Jarreau, Jimi Hendrix, War, Led Zeppelin, The Isley Brothers, Steve Wonder, were some sounds of the day.



Brilliant Kooks

Ronald walked around like this everywhere and was at 7th St. everyday.
A beautiful weirdo &  sight to be seen.
Made 7th St special.
We would snicker at him, but it was 1974 & everybody was considered weird, even if you had an Afro or did theater.
 We stopped snickering when we heard he  eventually became a scientist studying  astronomy. 
Maybe he got a degree because he was already in another universe, and   finally decide just to continue his studies in his field of interest.

His boyfriend & my next door neighbor, Eddie Billups,  called him "Swami".
Love, takes all kinds.

Photo is Love

My daughter Kwanza. 
Portrait; 
7th St Studios.
In 1976, wife left me & my 5 year old daughter was killed in an auto accident. Her death was the closest i ever came to losing my mind.I love this photo of her.

Early Portraits

Mark , 7th St neighbor. This was my attempt at studio lighting for portraits. Real film & no polaroids used to check exposure. 
Portrait taken 1973
 @ 7th St. studio.

Early Portrait

Michael Oliver Cooper, my brother & his daughter Tomica.
Portrait taken 1973
 @ 7th St. studio.

Joan Lewis
Head of the Drama Department at Clark College
.

The most dynamic director in theater in the 70's in Atlanta. Using Non-Traditional Teaching methods she created an environment for artistic growth & found a wellspring of amazing Talent around her.
She created Our biggest Family.
Unafraid, creative & demanding she was. And as actors, we were ready.

Her Clark College productions were professional caliber shows done on a college budget. We did Broadway shows. St. Louis Woman, For Colored Girls, Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, Broadways Best, Night of the Baker's End, and Purlie. Every show was sold out, and a mad house to get in, because adults from the city outnumbered the students.

Clark College
Joan Lewis
in Davage
Auditorium

Night of the Baker's End, by Ted Shine.
That's him in the leather jacket.
All the family at work.
The arrows point to Kenny Leon, Albert B.Cooper & Samuel L. Jackson. Sam & I were the leads. He had to rush back to Atlanta from New York and learn his lines in 5 days.
Amazing! 
Cast members Kenny Leon, Denise Mickleberry Fernandez, Charlene Ross, Carol Mitchell, with set design by Lisa Watson are all in the photo.

Clark College Campus

1978
This is Michael Lomax campaigning for the Fulton County Commission. Accompanied by Peabo Bryson, new Atlanta singing star, who was straight outta South Carolina.
 The Atlanta University Center was always political, forward thinking, and gave students exposure to the brightest minds in Black America. 
That's me with the Maynard for Mayor tee shirt.I was building a set for a play in Davage Auditorium
We should All Thank God for Maynard Jackson & Michael Lomax. They are truly Atlanta Arts Hero's .

 

Kenny Leon

Clark College.
Another Big Story of an amazing talent.  Tony Award Winner!
Met Kenny Leon when we started doing plays at Clark in Davage Auditorium. He was headed to law school after graduation. But he was fascinate with theater and left law school. He became part of our crew.
He's a great friend and now a multi talented, bi- coastal Broadway & Film director. The director of some of the Biggest Plays on Broadway,.
He directed the Wiz & Hairspray aired Live on TV.
No director has ever done that.
More to come on this story.

Chandra Currelly

Washington High School
A Jazz singer , actress extraordinaire.
And Tyler Perry
movie standout.
Out of Latanya's drama class at Washington High School (da Westside)
Chandra Currelly-Young, was a force to be recorded with as soon as she hit the stage in Clark's Davage Auditorium.
She Took leading roles, and  at 20 years old, filled the characters with life  like she was 40. 
Can't teach that.
We imediatly knew she had IT. Nuff said.
A stong actress and one of the best singers we ever worked with.  Her personality, wit, laugh, powerful voice, beaming smile & southern grace made her stand out. Today in her energy filled Jazz shows, she can still pack the room, rock the house  and make you get up & dance. Ask the folks @ City Winery, they know.
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

Sharlene Ross

Clark College
Shar.
Muti-talented actress, costumer, and hair designer.
(her hair braiding was legend for the dancers) 
She left acting, moved to LA & started a Talent Management Company. Her company, Ross Stephens Artists & Entertainment is still in operation today.
Her Black & white portrait represents part of my visual learning in childhood. Dr. A.B.Cooper's home was full of classic B& W photos, including family portraits, professional groups.  All done with large format cameras 
2 1/4, 5x7, and hand printed in darkrooms around the city, by black photographers.  
Atlanta & the south had a great many talented Black photographers.Even today their work is an inspiration and a guide. That's why I still collect black photography books.
portrait taken: @ 1291 The Clubhouse.  

Johnathan Peck

Morehouse College
Another Great actor part of our Family
of artists. Johnny Thin, as Bill Nunn used to like to say.
Smart, handsome, and strong on stage.
And gone too soon.
I will add more to this story, he deserves a good write up...
More later

N'Dea, From Clark stage to English Rockstar

Clark College.
N'Dea Davenport.
From being in our plays at Clark College another Clark College Players
grows her art in another country.
N'Dea went to London and became a sensation with the Brand New Heavies.
Classic soul jazz  sounds of the Brand New Heavies have became known worldwide. 

Joan Lewis takes Us Downtown

1st Time Black Theater on Peachtree St. 

A Real Arts Renaissance.
After the amazing success of Purlie, Joan Lewis founded the New Cosmos Cultural Theater company. Taking Purlie to downtown Atlanta.
1st time in Atlanta theater history a play from a small black college, Clark College, was produced on the Main Stage @ the Alliance Theater which is a union house with union stage hands.

The Play was Sold Out & held Over!!!
Unpresidented & unheralded in 1976.


Purlie @ Alliance Theater

Ground breaking.
1st & only time a locally produced Black college play was produced on Alliance Theater stage.Atlanta. 
Driving Miss Daisy, set the record for longest run at the Alliance. So that comparison should give you some idea
of vibe of Atlanta theater in the 1970's.
Go watch That movie! It was real! 
My photo is Samuel L. Jackson as Purlie in his Alliance Theater dressing room. Purlie was written by Ossie Davis, another American theater & film Legend. 
Sam put on a powerful performance as Purlie. It was mesmerizing. And the audiences wanted more.

Revolutionary work from a hot bed of talent. Clark College. 
But No respect in Atlanta. Except for the Krystal Burger commercial Sam was in. Can't live off 1 small commercial to pay your rent. 

Alliance Theater Crew

Backstage at the Alliance Theater for Purlie. Sam Jackson, Dennis Short, (link to his story soon ) , Albert Cooper & Rusty.
Dennis & I worked as the stage  technician's moving the Luis Maza designed set, having done the job at the Clark College production. 
This was my introduction to 
being a technician for stage & for Film.

Atlanta Dance Theater

Barbara Sullivan's 
Atlanta Dance Theater company.
Without Barbara, her choreography & her company of dancers, we wouldn't have had the powerhouse musicals we produced.
Lotta history here. Big Arts history story.
I don't
have any photos
Can someone help please.

Best of the Westside

Maynard Holbrook Jackson

A Big Man & A Big Deal. A Godsend
3 time Mayor, changed politics in Atlanta & the nation. And many don't know he changed the Arts in Atlanta.

Maynard's love of the Arts lead him to create the Bureau of Cultural Affairs, a funding source for artists & arts groups in the City at a time when we had little funding. 
Maynard Jackson & the BCA, was the reason we finally had a City support system for Black folk in  the arts in Atlanta. He funded the BCA & put Michael Lomax  in charge of the BCA.
And Lomax handled the job like the professional he is.
Using government C.E.T.A. funds many artists were able to fund what ever art they specialized in We got funds to do our plays, sometimes we'd get a small  salary ($150-300 per week)
and that was enough to eat,  live & to create our Art.
If not for Maynard, many of the stories on the site and the people in them may not have happened. 
Maynard wanted to create an Atlanta Film Commission. But it never happened & today Atlanta still is the only major City without a Film Commission. Atlanta has a Film Permit Office instead.
He was ahead of his time. A True ICON.
 

The Neighborhood Arts Center

NAC

Just Us Theater Company after rehearsal, on the steps of the  Neighborhood Arts Center. Founded by artist turned Arts Administrators.
(A lesson we learned from)  Thank You Maynard Jackson. 
The photo is the cast of the 1st play, Dr. B.S.Black with visiting guest Whitman Mayo from Sanford & Sons. We were the 1st Black theater company to partner with Chris Manos, Theater of the Stars in his Peachtree Playhouse.

Da Fellas

The 3 Amigos
in front of Latanya's aunt house in Crescendo Valley, in Historic Collier Heights, the Westside.
I will go back & tell the story of the beautiful neighborhoods of Collier Heights in the 1950-60's in the next chapter.
I grew up here on Albert St, in 1956. It was just a dirt road, white neighbors and no street lights.  But Black folk were coming by the hundreds, building their own homes, schools & businesses. Collier Heights was the Best Black Neighborhood in America, according to Jet & Ebony Magazine. And there was No crime. None.
 I would ride my bike by (Judge)Glenda Hatchett's house on the way to play baseball.

Just Us Theater Company

1976

2nd time we take Black Theater to Peachtree St.

Eddie Billips, Latanya, Sam, Bill Nunn & I get together to put  a Black Play & theater company in the Peachtree Playhouse.
Just Us was formed in 1978 in the kitchen of LaTanya & Sam Jackson, in our 7th. St. apartment. With Eddie Billups & Bill Nunn & me. I came up with the name, Just Us. Who doing it? Someone asked, I answered,
"Just Us".
And we call it
The Just Us Theater Company,
cause it's "just us" doing it.
Dr. B.S.Black was the 1st show.
We go uptown again. 


Hanging

Sam, Kenny & Billy. We pledged 
Black Theater , not a Frat.
And spent all our time together always looking for the next show or opportunity to perform & learn. Even riding a MARTA bus to get there.
photo:Me

1970's Black Movies in Atlanta

This is movie archive info from historian, Stan Malone. Not me.

1970-75
The small Coronet Theater on Peachtree St was rocking.

"The Coronet jumped on the Black bandwagon in 1970. The first big hit was Cotton Comes To Harlem, not a Blaxploitation movie by any means but a well produced United Artists release. Other hits were Watermellon Man, Sweet Sweetback, Shaft, and Soul To Soul. However, there were not enough Black themed movies to fill the schedule so they filled in the gaps with sex, such as Lickerish Quartet, I Am A Groupie, Seduction of Inga, and The Abductors.

1972 was the biggest year for the Coronet with Cool Breeze, Super Fly, Trick Baby, and the subject of this ad. It is for the sequel to Cotton Comes To Harlem and it was the biggest hit of all. While the upstairs Baronet did not get many first runs, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes being the only major one, it did well with its offerings of moveovers from the other downtown theaters thanks to the overflow from the sellouts at the Coronet. Some of its titles were Coffy, Buck And The Preacher, Blacula, Slaughter, Hammer, and Across 110th Street.

Cotton Comes To Harlem and Come Back Charleston Blue were easily the best of these type movies and both were based on novels by Chester Himes. In the 90’s several Himes novels were the basis of the Eddie Murphy movie Harlem Nights." 
Thanks Stan

 

The Film Forum 

1972-78
Our favorite cheap movie watching was at the Film Forum. A  tiny
 (176 seats) Art House theater in Ansley Mall. Ansley was where we shopped for groceries( closest Kroger to 7th St)   & went to see movies you couldn't see at regular theaters.
Foreign films, old W.C.Fields comedies & cult films . We could see Woody Allen movies or The Rocky Horror Picture Show for $1.00 & he also had midnight shows.
Two of my fav's were "Swept Away"by director Lina Wertmuller & "The Devils" by Ken Russell.
That was filmmaking.
The Film Forum was run by Atlanta actor George Ellis.
He had a part time job as as TV personality known as "Bestoink Dooley" who would do a creepy intro for a local TV stations Friday night horror movies. George would regularly be at the box office 
taking tickets & saying "Thank You for Coming" in his rich baritone voice.

Clark & Morehouse

The students at the Atlanta University mixed & mingled & created a blended student body of all the schools.We were enrolled in separate schools with separate administrations, traditions & histories, but we were free to roam and attend classes at any school we chose.
We sampled and were exposed to each of the 6 schools, a blend which created the best way to learn during our college world experience. Beautiful idea. Bring that idea back.

Sambo Bey

1976, In the white shirt. Ex military & straight outta the Vietnam war,.
Sambo was on "The Wall" where everybody walked by everyday. His cool demeanor, dreadlocks, creative skills at making & selling brass & bead jewelry, while wearing a bright African Dashiki & smelling like natural oils from so far away place , made hanging with him a learning experience school couldn't teach.
We were exposed to another part of authentic blackness.
Sambo Bey was & is, a Dashikis wearing Conga drummer extrodanaire. His huge spirit , drumming, kindness, work ethic, brass jewelry making, easy laugh, support of the arts,
& knowledge of the sacred herbs & rasta way of life was a major influence in our lives. I became Woke after meeting Sambo. It's what Willie Ricks kept saying to us on Hunter St. but iI didn't completly understand when he shouted!
Hey African!!
This photo has Bill Nunn playing african Shekere & wearing a Just Us theater tee shirt.

I was with Sambo when I met Bob Marley in the Fox Theater at his concert.
Amazing experience.
Thank you my brother for everything.


New Cosmos Cultural Theater

3nd time we go Downtown

Joan Lewis moved  her new theater company, New Cosmos, into the Center Stage Theater, former home of the Everly Bros. on West Peachtree St. 
Living in downtown & working in downtown in the 1970's was a wonderful thing. I worked at C&S Bank on Mitchell St. during this time. Biggest bank in the South. I would fly in their helicopter to take aerial photo of their branch banks & i went to the Federal Reserve every day. 
Latanya & Samuel L. Jackson are in this photo. 1979?

Bill Nunn & Albert Cooper become Theater Producers

4th Time dowtown.
Now we producing Black Plays @
Center Stage Theater.

Bill Nunn  & Albert Cooper in "God is a Guess What?", for Playground Players , and People's Survival Theater.
Playground Players was me & Bill. Peoples Survival was Elizebeth Williams & she directed.
 
We wrote the grants, did casting, did contacts for the venue, built a set, hired the musicians and paid any bills. While being actors / producers.
With brilliant acting from Afemo Omilami, Bernadine Mitchell, Carol Mitchell, Kenny Leon, Michelle Benjamin, Johnathan Peck, Edward Billups, 
The show was a rousing artistic success.

Atlanta Newspaper Review's

The white critics loved our show..Following Just Us theater & Joan Lewis productions downtown was normal for us now.
The barrier had been broken. Black audiences would come to Peachtree st. to see Black professional theater comapnies with no hesitation.

Nunn & Cooper

Artist-in-Residence at Spelman College.
Mayor Maynard Jackson's C.E.T.A Arts program created our jobs & Dr. Baldwin Burrows invited us into the Drama department to teach & work for 1 year. Sketch comedy shows, a comedy musical, children's plays, Shakespeare & student plays were produced.
 We learned, our production of "God is A Guess What?" at Rockefeller Auditorium,
had a larger budget than the Spelman College Drama had for the entire year.

Backstage

Again

At Spelman College. Bill & I worked with Baldwin Buroughs & became Artisti-in-Residence for the C.E.T.A. Arts program. once again, we produced God is a Guess What?.. We wrote the grants, were successfull,  hired  J. Lavonne Brown to find & lead the band, paid them,  & paid the choreographer
Barbara Sullivan, & put many Spelman students in the cast. Again, it was a hit. And we made no money.

Afemo Omilami Georgia Allen

1979 Spelman Summer Theater
More of our Family...

I will expand on the stories of these 2 exceptionally talents artists as separate stories, but for now....it's the only photo in database.

This program is from Spelman College Summer Theater production of Macbeth. They were the leads actors, but all our theater family showed up to work on the play.
Afemo is one of the most powerful, laser focused & talented actors I have ever seen. His intensity in character development is legend in our family.
He was our master of method acting and our African Warrior. Real Black African Manhood. And it was amazing to see & feel. Married to Elisebeth Williams Omilami, actress, our director ,friend and head of Hosea Feeds the Hungry.
Atlanta Power couple.

Georgia Allen, a mature, serious professional actress, and teacher, was kind enough to share the stage with us. Made us bring our A Game, because she was the Real Thing.
 Appeared in many episodes of "In the Heat of the Night"
with Carrol O'Connor & many, many movies filmed in Georgia. 
Charlene Ross, Donald Griffin, and many others actors spent time in Spelman that hot summer.

Nunn & Cooper 

Actors become a Comedy Team

After doing comedy in theater for so long, Billy & I started a comedy team. We performed at Every Black club in Atlanta. We did sold out live shows at the African Eye, Sambo & Bolaji's Vegan/poetry club. We did 5 years going to the Punch Line in Sandy Springs. Work in Alabama & a bit in Chicago.
J.Anthony Brown & Jeff Foxworthy were among the comics we hung out with. Oh and Jamie Foxx too.

8 Balls 5 minus 1 Comedy

1984. Portraits & Performing, my Life.
This was our Standup comedy collective. J.Anthony Brown, Bill Nunn, Albert Cooper, Steve Smith & Rex Gavin , the -1. We all performed at the Punch Line Comedy Club for about 5 years, and many other clubs in & around Atlanta. 
The Punchline, The Comedy Spot,
 Mr. V's, Cisco's, Marko's, Jerry Farber's, WCLK Jazz Awards, in CAU dorms, anywhere we could get on stage & maybe paid.
Photo; in my
1291 Hunter St studio @ Ann Nixon Cooper house.

Nunn & Cooper 
Teach Acting Class in Prison

Poor artist take jobs anywhere they can find them to teach, practice their craft & make a dollar.
At the Stone Mountain Correctional Prison, Billy Nunn, John Coleman & I were Drama instructors for a few weeks on some kinda crazy prison rehab program. Thieves, crazies, malcontents, political prisoners & murders were our students. We produced a show that the prisoners performed at a larger prison theater Showcase. Our class Won.
The incident I remember the best is one guy was off his meds, started doing hand stands, and I saw the other prisoners started to back away into a corner,  sensing a meltdown. This little country man, who was built like a brick shit house, started foaming at the mouth, & with bulging blood shot eyes keep getting in your face &  repeating, " Let's go Plow da Field", "Com'on let's go plow da field."  Then he would do a hand-stand across the room. We all freaked, & had no idea what he was talking about & knew at that point, it was time to go. We immediately called the guards and asked to be let out of the room. And naturally, they peeked in thru the slot in the metal door, shut it, and left us inside for another half hour. We got a full dose of prison life that day & took no time in looking for other teaching jobs.

Atlanta Cyclorama Restoration

Actor takes Art Restoration job.
Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum, in Grant Park since 1891. One of 2 cycloramas in the USA and in bad shape and owned & operated  by the City of Atlanta. 
Hired by my friend & great artist, Tom Ferguson, this was my day job for 1 1/2 years. I would work on the restoration crew, cleaning, strengthening & repairing tears & deterioration due to mold, moisture, rats & insects. It was big construction site, with tons of chemicals, hazardous dust, dirt, bulldozers, cranes, working 30 ft in the air on scaffolds, painters and scruffy artists,
workshop wizards  and a few hard core Civil Wars supporters guiding & supporting the effort. Oh, we had to wear sealed respirators, white disposable coverings & shower everyday AT WORK, to get the toxic dust off ourselves.
At Night, I was doing Stand-Up Comedy with Bill Nunn @ The African I. I was burning the candle. Full time work & a full time creative job. Youth and drive is a mother. 



Michelle Benjamin

Clark College
I Married an Artist
We met on the stage at Clark, She was super talented dancer out of Washinton High School and attending Clark College. A  resident dancer with the most skilled dance troup in Atlanta, Barbara Sullivan
Atlanta Dance Theater on Auburn Ave.
Our apartment in 4th Ward became The Hangout for all of our theater family.
We had the best parties in the 80's including a great Halloween party. We have 2 beautiful daughters. Brea & Arielle. Best work we ever did.
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

Artist Err' where

 Gary, Michelle & Vonne from a dance show Michelle was producing . Everyday in my home were dancers, actors comedians, set builders, singers, writers, any & all creatives. The 1980's was on fire

Bolaji

Atlanta University
School of Social Work
Louis Bailey, Bolaji to everyone.
A gem of a person and a real man. Bolaji has been the hardest working supporter of the arts in Atlanta since 1974. He worked at Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs in the 70's and helped Bill & I get our theater grants.
 He supported us in stand up comedy by hosting our show @ his club, The African I.
He is a grip, a great DJ, does photography & is a cinematographer, does sound for everybody including 25 yrs @ the Malcolm X festival. He has done over 300 music videos, numerous commercials & movies. Always willing to work and work hard.
And he Wrote the original Grant for the Atlanta Jazz Festival held in Piedmont Park, 50 years ago while at the BCA.
He is pillar of support & participation in the Arts in Atlanta.
photo; Pine st Studios




Artist Err' where

A Real Black Film
Legend visits.
Huggie Bear @ Pine St. 1986?

Antonio Fargas was at my house
Chris Leonard brought him by..
Star of Shaft, I'm Gonna get you Sucker, Starsky & Hutch, & Foxy Brown. And he was in Van Peeble's Broadway production of Ain't Supposed to Die.

I am a Commercial Photo Assistant

1979-85. Finding my self in a rut, working at Cooper's Gulf, I needed a change to grow my artist side & to make a living. 
I interviewed with a commercial photographer, went to work in his new studio and learned the skills the pros use to light, compose
& find your style. We did product, portrait, billboard, fashion, magazine ad's, corporate reports, nature, home interiors & industrial photos, and set building.
I worked as one of 4 black commercial assistants in Atlanta & NYC for 6 years 1978-85.

Corporations pay big Money for photography

Working with & learning from commercial photographers was eye opening reality to jobs & money & 
a classic education few black folk in Atlanta had access to. Actually there was limited access everywhere to the commercial photography side, where real money was made.
I was 1 of 3 or 4 Black commercial assistants in the ATL.
The commercial pro photographers were doing  advertising work for multinational corporations. Home Depot, Fashion magazines, Home & Gardens, Architectural Digest, any & all corporations came calling. Good times for Atlanta Studio Photographers.
There was even a guy shooting for Playboy. His studio was at the Goat Farm, all the assistants thought that was a Hoot, I never worked for him.
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

My Studio Work -The Clubhouse

In 1982, in a small "clubhouse"  in back of my Grandfathers home, I created my own real studio space. I photographed many people, products & used the studio as artist gathering, rehearsal space.
I used real 35mm, 2x4 film & much Polaroid in the 70's-80's. 
Thank you grandaddy & grandma Cooper for creating the opportunity to have a place to work & grow.
The Black Film Technicians Society was also founded in my studio.
Carl Johnson, Bolaji Bailey, Howard Clark, Bill Bennett, Patrice Coleman, were founding members.


Commercial Light

Linda Harris as model. Friend,  favorite model & Classy lady.
Learning to create my Style.

At work, using expensive electronic flash units, boxes of real film, waiting 60 seconds for polaroid to develop to check exposure, light meters, serving lunch & cleaning up after, being quiet on set, building a set or painting "Cyc Wall" at work, was big fun & the best photography school in Atlanta.
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.


Clubhouse Portraits

Michael Bond & Lisa Benjamin.
They were in love & wanted me to take their portrait.
I was fortunate to have so many great people seek my photo services.
Lisa is also in the Prince photo below.
Her favorite artist.
Thanks Mike & Lisa , Love you much.

Amazing Light

Morris Brown College.
To see it. To find beauty and capture a moment of it for all time. The Goal.
Person, product, place, event for money.
Be able to shoot a perfect photo on demand with an art director standing next to you was the challenge commercial photographers faced. Since we did't have a monitor to see the results 1st hand, the photographer had to know light, its temperature, exposure settings, shutter speed, film speed & processing adjustments. Just to start. Getting the shot wasn't easy.
Study & practice
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

Window Light

@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

Portrait

The legend
Deb Moore
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

Portrait

Karma
Daughter of Toni Cade Bambari
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

Portrait

Morris Brown College
Jerusha.
She saw my work and asked for a photo session.
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

Portrait

Willie Woods. Great actor & dear friend. He loved Michelle's cooking & was in our home often. He died too early from AIDS complications.
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

Portrait

This model saw my work & wanted me to take her pictures. This photo made the cut & was on her model comp card. my 1st model card credit. 
@ 1291 The Clubhouse.

Pink Floyd, "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" Tour, Live At The Omni Coliseum, Atlanta, November - 1987

My photo assistant work helped get my name out in Los Angeles. There were some black production people in Atlanta.
I got the call.
The Production Manager for the filming of this concert offered me the job of Production Coordinator.
40,000 fans, at the biggest rock show in the world,  with a flying pig, a bed, & laser light show& 26 camera crews. Beautiful madness.
The film was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Long Form Music Video category at the 32nd annual Grammy Awards.
Worldwide, the band grossed around US$135 million, making A Momentary Lapse of Reason the highest-grossing tour of the 1980s.

Concert Link;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBfMX-HZC0U

Spike- His Movie World Intro

 "She's Gotta Have it". 1986 @ Tara Theater Premier .

Spike set the country on fire with "She's Gotta Have it". People were lined up at the theater.
Black audiences were thirsty and Spike had the right beverage. A great story with Flavor told by a Great Storyteller. It's that A.U. Center training now being taken to the Big Screen.

Next Chapter:
Spike had seen our plays @ Clark & Spelman College & on his 2nd movie takes Sam, Billy & me as actors with him  into big budget feature film production on School Daze.
Spike is another foundation story
of a visionary talent, from our AUC family.
And still Atlanta said very Little.


School Daze  An Indie Film Classic

1988.Spike Lee creates a Cinema Classic. I get a double credit. Actor  &Transportation Coordinator.
That's me in the Red Suit..Thank you Ruth Carter!

This was a feature film shot in the Atlanta University Center by a former student of the AUC, Morehouse College. And hiring AUC actors as cast members. 
That is real economic development, before the term existed.

A Historic Moment barely mentioned.
Spike wrote a musical comedy,  with an insiders look at black college life.
I wanted to work the whole show not just 1 day as an actor, so I worked for production office for free for 3 weeks. Hard work & long hours & Spike & Monty Ross asked me to take over the job of Transportation Coordinator. First day of filming, I was an actor, with a Transpo crew of 9 working under me.
This was the 1st time some white Atlanta film crew members had worked on a Black Show that was written, produced, directed & staffed by Black folk. This was a ground breaking production for Atlanta film production with many soon to be Stars & Academy Award Winners & made me the 1st Transpotation Coordinator in the South. A double Credit for me. To bad Morehouse College wouldn't let Spike film on it's campus. Bad move.

Def by Temptation

1988
Back in Brooklyn on an indie movie.
They let me be the stills photographer. Using a borrowed camera and a few rolls of precious 35mm film, I was making $50 per day in NYC.
Lots of School Daze crew was on the shoot. James Bond III director -writer, Bill Nunn, Samuel L. Jackson, Kadeem Hardison, Ernest Dickerson DP, Marcus Turner, 1st AD , but also talent with Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson, and Minnie Gentry.
Staying at Sam & Tanya's for a minute, & catching the train to Brooklyn was too cool.
Then i had to move to create space at Sam's & having no where to stay, I found myself homeless for a few days. Hanging out at different places, I was sometimes posted up in the 42nd St train station with my bag, calling friends looking for any spot on a  floor I could sleep. Eventually 
sleeping on the sofa of a friend of a friends house was found & I reported to work everyday as scheduled.
I was in heaven.
A creative, challenging , go get it time in New York.

8 Balls 5 minus 1 @ Lawrence Fishburne
Crib
 Here we are on the set of " Def' by Temptation". This day we were in Lawrence Fishburne's brownstone in Brooklyn.
Getting No Love in Atlanta, we all moved to New York to hang & work with the hot new film artists, Spike Lee , James Bond III, Ernest Dickerson, Melvin Van Peebles and other any film project we could get on.  Note the School Daze jackets. 
L-R, 
Rex Garvin, Billy Nunn, the truly funny Steve Smith, Me, Samuel L. Jackson, & Kadeem Hardison.J Anthony Brown is the minus 1 in this photo.
And in true New York fashion, someone guy stole the production van while we were standing next to it. He just walked up, opened the door & drove off with our equipment. 
It's New York baby!

Melvin Van Peebles. I
Work for my Hero

1988 on set in New York City with   Legend of Black Indie Filmmaking.
After Sam & Tanya moved to Harlem every chance I got it was, Bye Atlanta.
Bill Nunn & I followed them to NYC  after School Daze.
We  had all moved to New York. Sam , Tanya & our close friends were acting in theater, working on indie movies, & auditioning. I was getting work from NYC commercial photographers & independent films, sleeping anywhere i could, & hoping to make enough money to take a $99.00 flight back to Atlanta to pay my rent. Thank god for Bedford Pine Apartments & cheap rent.
Here Melvin was directing his son Mario on an inde film, Identity Crisis,  I was a 2 person $50 p/day Art Dept.. I was sleeping in the basement of Samuel & Latanya Jackson.
Back Story;
In 1975 Joan Lewis had directed "Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death"  at Clark College. It was Melvin Van Peebles  sold-out broadway hit . The show was also a sold out Clark College Mega Hit. 
As a group  of young actors WE delivered.  
In this photo, Melvin stopped to ask me a question. WHAT??? 
Melvin Van Peebles spoke to ME!!!
He wanted to know why I was wearing His Hat. I apologized, broke in a broad grin & asked for a photo like the groupie i was. So glad I made that mistake.

Black Film Technician Society

Clark College, Spelman College, Atlanta University.
1988, BFTS.
Black Economic Development for Film.

Right after the great success on Spike Lee's "School Daze" we were excited.  I was back from NYC, but despite the  best efforts to prove ourselves, finding work for Black Technicians, was very difficult. Breaking through the white racism in Film was a major struggle.Yes it was Atlanta, but we were still in the deep South. So, 7 black technicians met in my photo studio & formed a networking & support group . Goal was to enlighten & seek economic opportunities on projects filming in Atlanta & encourage Black folk to consider film making as a career.
Economic Development by film workers.
I was elected President & we got an office in Clark College's Mass Communications Dept.
At one point we had every black filmmakers name on the East coast in our database.
All done with no cell phones or internet.

Swamp Thing 

Transpotation Coordinator & Actor

"The Return of Swamp Thing",
starring Heather Locklear, 1988, Savannah Ga.
Real work as a Department Head!!
So Happy to get offered the job as Transportation Coordinator by a great  California  producer, Robert "Bob" Warner. Always had great opportunities working with LA producers.
Doing the same thing i did on School Daze, I read for a small part & Got It. I am the cab driver in the movie. Another double credit.
Not bad for a C student.

 The Long Walk Home

Loved Whoopie & Cussed Wolf

1989. Montgomery Alabama.
Whoopie Goldberg & Sissy Spacek.

Another career Milestone film for me.
 Black crew members from across the country getting hired.

After School Daze when a movie with a Black theme/ subject was preping anywhere, the call went out for the best black crew.
And black crew everywhere were listening.
But you had to pass muster, of The Bondsman...He had to look you & your resume over.
1st A.D. Victoria Rhoades hired my old boss Randy Fletcher (from School Daze) as her 2nd A.D. he made the call to me in Atlanta (Black Film Techs) & it was on from there.
I was hired as assistant Transpo coordinator, my boss got demoted, I knew the show better than he did & I got promoted to Transpo Coordinator for the 2nd time. Department head.
But this was my 1st time as the boss of a crew of grown ass-Redneck Alabama Teamsters. And it was their 1st time having a Uppity Black man from Westside Atlanta as the boss. I was ready. Told 'em do you Freaking Job, & it won't be any problems. Don't do your work & I will fire yo ass. After the meeting, I never had a problem.

There were some big time & about to be big time, Hollywood  folk on the crew.
Sissy Spacak, Roger Deakins, DP,  hawk Koch, Ving Rhames,Erika Alexander, and the Legend herself Whoopie Goldburg.
One story i have is 
when I got into a screaming & cussing match on set with the producer Wolf Koch.
I cussed him like I knew him & afterward the redneck teamsters said to me " Boy, we didn't know you had that kinda fire in ya. If you want us to, we'll go beat his ass for ya." In an odd twist, years later , Wolf had a son, & named him Cooper Koch.

 

Black Legacy Filmmakers

Carl Johnson, Patrice Coleman, & A.B.Cooper

Carl Johnson was the 1st black filmmaker from Atlanta i ever met.was in the late 70's -early 80's. We lost him too early.

Patrice Coleman, graduate of Spelman College, was the 1st black woman I met on a commercial photography job.
She does makeup.
To see her on a corporate professional set was a revelation & we became instant friends. Diversity at work. Let me know people like me Can make a living in this crazy business.

I include myself, because Sam & I were on movie sets in the 1970's.
In 1976 on "Just an Ole Sweet Song".
 

Octavia Spencer

This story goes into the Film Part of the story, just a teaser here.
On Set 2017. I met Octavia in 1989 in Alabama, on the set of The Long Walk Home with Whoopie Goldberg. She was working as a casting assistant. I was the Transportation Coordinator &  President of the Black Film Technicians Society.
Octavia wanted to grow in the film biz & get out of Alabama so she started to call me in Atlanta every chance she got.
I help her with the information & contacts I had. Apparently it worked.
 When I saw her this day on set, she said she was 19 yrs old when she was calling me looking for work. 
Help others. Lesson from my ancestors.

Working at a union, IA Local 479 doing training classes, and a Locations Rep for the State of Georgia's Georgia Film Commission, allowed me to see what kind of impact a black technician /artist, like myself,  using my non traditional teaching could have on finding & developing talent, for the growth of the Arts & Georgia's New film industry and beyond.

I have a long list of success stories & the names are coming soon. I'm calling ya'll out!!

Andy Young

A westside Atlanta neighbor, Icon & customer of Cooper's Gulf Gas station on Hunter St. As a teenager, I pumped gas into his car as well as Martin Luther King's car in 1960's. Cooper's Gulf was directly across from Paschals Motor Hotel. I saw Robert Kennedy go into Paschals & Stokely Carmichael
was a frequent visitor to Cooper's Gulf, crossing the street from Pascals to Cooper's to say hey to my father & the brothers.

My Grand mother

Ann Nixon Cooper. My Grandmother.
Dr.A.B.Cooper Jr.
photo in the background.
His is The Foundation of all of us, including my grandma. My grandfather's story is amazing. The Black Film Technicians Society, Atlanta's 1st Boy Scout Troop, and the Georgia Dental Society , were all founded at the Cooper home.
In 2008 in Chicago, Barack Obama, in his  Presidential Victory speech told a story of a 104 year old woman in Atlanta.
Our world shook twice that day. 1st the White House called 1291 the Cooper home, & told family, Obama would use the life of my grandmother, Ann Nixon Cooper, in his speech, in front of the world! Then I watched the First Black President in American History tell a Cooper family story.. Oh, My God!!!
I have never experienced such a powerful event as that night. 
Ann Nixon Cooper's book "A Century & Some Change, My Life After the President Called", is on Amazon.

LaTanya Richardson Jackson

More coming

          More Stories & Links are Above

              Look for Links to Film Commission, Music Videos, Commercials & Feature film Stories
                                                 Please bear with me,I'm a novice webmaster
                                     

ABC4ATL Black Arts Legacy

Interested in finding out more about the who and the what of this Atlanta Arts Movement? Keep visiting this website as I take you on a journey from 1970's Black Theater all the way to Filmmaking in Georgia in the 1980's -90's & 2000's. I will give you a glimpse into what I have seen and experienced. And if want to ask a question about my life and work, then please get in touch with me.

[email protected]
 https://www.linkedin.com/in/albertbcooperiv


This is a work in progress. 

Please Support me in the effort to tell this Untold Atlanta Arts History Story