Civil Rights and Equality

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 Civil Rights and Equality

Apr 28, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced Juliana Ospina Cano, Executive Director of Conexión Américas, will be his virtual guest to President Biden's first address to Congress.

Apr 20, 2021 Press Release

Yesterday the U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report regarding sexual harassment within the Nuclear Security Forces of the NNSA. As Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) commissioned the report in 2019 after the alleged assault and subsequent harassment and termination of Ms. Jennifer Glover, a former security contractor.

Apr 13, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued the following statement on the recent acts of gun violence in Tennessee:

Apr 8, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) commended President Joe Biden’s executive actions to end gun violence by saying: “President Biden’s actions today will undoubtedly save lives, especially here in Middle Tennessee where our governor just signed a bill to allow the carrying of firearms without a permit,” Rep. Cooper said. “The House passed expanded background check bills last month that we still need the Senate to bring up for a vote.”

Apr 7, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced the U.S. Small Business Administration Shuttered Venues Operations Grant portal will open tomorrow, April 8, and venues that qualify can apply on the Small Business Administration’s website by clicking here.

Mar 23, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) and Rep. Roger Williams (TX-25) reintroduced the bipartisan bill, the Eliminate the Digital Divide Act. The bill addresses the digital divide by giving more internet access to more people who have been left behind at a time when they most need reliable broadband. 
The legislation requires the Federal Communications Commission to set up a new State Broadband program, which will provide funds to expand internet access to unserved areas. This includes more than 600,000 Tennesseans. 

Mar 22, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05), along with United Neighborhood Health Services and Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, announced the award of two grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. United Neighborhood services will receive nearly $5 million and Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center will receive nearly $3 million. The grants are a continuation of funding for operations at the federally qualified health centers.

Jan 21, 2021 Page

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Jan 3, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) was sworn-in to serve in the 117th United States Congress.

Shortly after being sworn-in, Cooper re-introduced the following three bills to ensure the voting process is fair and equitable for all Americans.

Dec 27, 2020 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Yesterday Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) along with Tennessee’s two U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn, sent a letter to President Trump asking him to approve Governor Bill Lee’s disaster declaration for Tennessee.