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

Jul 15, 2021 Press Release

48,300 Households, Covering 89.5% of All Children, in TN-05 Could Get Up to $300 Per Child Every Month July-December as Part of American Rescue Plan


Jun 4, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced his legislative strategy for solving the problem of trains parking on railroad crossings on busy commuter roads. He and his office have received countless complaints from Nashvillians who report that local trains are parking for much longer periods of time than ever before on busy roads, preventing car and truck traffic from getting to and from work, dealing with emergencies, or shopping for groceries.

Jun 2, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced the Center for Disease Control (CDC) awarded Davidson Co. $4,930,248 a grant to address COVID-19 health disparities.

May 18, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Following President Joe Biden’s Major Disaster Declaration for several counties in Tennessee, individuals in Davidson, Williamson, and Wilson counties impacted by the severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding from March 25-April 3 of this year may be eligible for low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration.

May 13, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Earlier this week Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) spoke with Zerlina Maxwell about H.R. 1, the For the People Act, on NBC Universal’s streaming channel, Peacock.

May 12, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Last night Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) released the following statement after Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced he will opt Tennesseans out of expanded unemployment benefits:

May 12, 2021 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Congressman Jim Cooper (D) announced today that Lisa Quigley, his longest serving Chief of Staff, will depart this summer after 13 years leading his office. 

He also announced that Cheryl Mayes, his Director of Finance and Operations, will become the District Director of the Nashville office.

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: