Social Justice and Civil Rights

Tennessee has a strong history of promoting civil rights and equality for all Americans. It is important to remember Nashville led the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. said he came to Nashville “not to bring inspiration, but to gain inspiration from the great movement that has taken place in this community.” Our beloved community was the training ground for the late Civil Rights hero and Congressman John Lewis.

Nashville can help the Civil Rights Movement again and help end systemic racism. The Black Lives Matter movement is just as important because it is the long-awaited, next stage of the Civil Rights Movement. This is one of those hinge moments in American history and the hinge is swinging in the right direction--toward more equality, more justice, and more fairness.

If you have the chance, be sure to visit the Civil Rights Collection at the Nashville Public Library. It’s a remarkable collection of Nashville’s history during the civil rights movement, and I hope you’ll also stop by my office while you’re here.

Ending Systemic Racism

I have fought to end systemic racism throughout my career and have a 100% rating from the Leadership Council on Civil Rights and the NAACP. I have voted for efforts to raise the minimum wage, invest more in housing and education systems, student debt relief, and eliminate gender pay gaps because we know nonwhite women are discriminated against the most when it comes to pay equity. I have cosponsored a bill that would create a commission to study and develop reparations proposals; this is the same proposal that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden support.

Police Reform

Policing must be restructured and reformed. I cosponsored and voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which mandates national standards on police departments across the country and bans chokeholds, no-knock warrants, qualified immunity for police, and police officers committing murder in one district then getting a job in another district.

Criminal Justice Reform

I believe it is important to consider the human cost to mass incarceration, which has an impact not only on the life prospects of the offenders themselves, but also on their family members. Tennessee is tied with five other states for the third highest prevalence of parental incarceration, with one of 10 children in the state having lived with a parent or guardian incarcerated in jail or prison.

Because streamlining the voter restoration process is a commonsense way to increase Tennesseans’ ability to participate in their communities and a solution to help keep our state safe, I am involved with Saturday Clinics for voter restoration. Aided by volunteer attorneys working at the clinics, returning citizens have the opportunity to complete Certificate of Restoration forms. In addition, I have enlisted the support of the TN State Prison Commissioner to give inmates voter registration and restoration forms upon release from prison. I also work with Steering Clear, a joint program of the District Attorney and Sheriff’s office to offer voter registration forms and certificates of restoration when formerly incarcerated individuals apply for a driver’s license. I am trying to locate those who committed felonies between 1973 and 1981 to let them know that they never lost their right to vote.


Nashville is home to four amazing HBCUs - Fisk, American Baptist, Meharry, and TSU. I have supported funding for all of these institutions over the years. I have also supported and voted for permanent funding for HBCUs, expanded and increased Pell Grants, and student loan forgiveness to help increase access to educational opportunities. I also support restoring Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals and expanding access to free community college.


Tennessee used to be one of the best but now is one of the worst, most anti-voting states in America. This is intentional and is meant to suppress the vote, particularly of Black and Brown voters. I have been leading the fight in Tennessee against our Secretary of State for years to stop voter disenfranchisement and make it easier to vote.

I have offered a proposal to give Americans, for the first time in our history, a constitutional right to vote. Many people think we have this right already, but we do not. This proposed amendment bans voter suppression; any future restriction on voting would have to survive “strict scrutiny” by the judiciary. For more about this proposal, click here.


One of my top priorities has been getting universal health care. The Tennessee legislature has refused to expand Medicaid, and get health care to more than a quarter million Tennesseans. This is one of the easiest things we can do to get to universal health coverage in Tennessee. We shouldn’t have needed any reminders that health outcomes, life expectancy, infant mortality vary drastically across our Nashville community, but COVID-19 has highlighted those and I have been working to address these racial health disparities in our communities.

More on Social Justice and Civil Rights

Oct 19, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE - Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today spoke at the State of Tennessee’s Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Redistricting, again calling on lawmakers to keep Nashville whole.

Cooper spoke at the House Select Committee on Redistricting last month.

Sep 23, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE  Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05), along with the Veteran Service Organization Operation Stand Down Tennessee, announced a $2.1 million federal grant under the Veteran’s Administration Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program.

Sep 21, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON - Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) introduced a bill to rename the United States Post Office located at 2245 Rosa L Parks Blvd. in Nashville to honor the late State Senator Thelma Harper.

Sep 9, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE  This morning Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) submitted his concerns in the federal comment period for TennCare III, Tennessee’s controversial Medicaid block grant, and urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to renegotiate a new waiver that is in the best interest of Tennesseans.

Sep 9, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) yesterday spoke at the State of Tennessee’s Select Committee on Redistricting inaugural meeting, calling on lawmakers to keep Nashville whole.

Aug 30, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON  Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05), along with Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH-3) and Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), introduced the Rosa Parks Day Act. The bill would honor civil rights leader Rosa Parks by designating a new federal holiday. Nashvillian Moses Fisher, Jr. proposed the idea to Cooper and has championed it very effectively.

Aug 17, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today announced Tennessean Christopher Jerrolds re-joined his staff as Deputy Chief of Staff.

Aug 17, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today, along with Rep. Chuck Fleischmann introduced a Resolution in the House honoring the bravery and legacy of the Clinton 12.

Aug 11, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today announced components of his Don’t BLock Our Communities (D-BLOC) Act are included in the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate yesterday.

Jul 30, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today announced the rebranding of his IssueWatch project, formerly a twice-weekly online newsletter dedicated to Middle Tennesseans interested in important congressional updates and other major news items.