Geneva Cooper in January 2014 (Courtesy photo)

Geneva Cooper, one of the first African-American librarians in Memphis, passed away Tuesday morning. She was 103.

Ms. Cooper worked at the Vance Avenue Branch starting in 1947. The library was renamed the Cornelia Crenshaw Memorial Library in honor of community activist Cornelia Crenshaw in October 1997.

Honored as a “Living Legend” by New Sardis Missionary Baptist church in 2016, Ms. Cooper fondly remembers the facility as being more than a library. It became a refuge to the many black students and adults who came.

The library had a very complete line of past and modern Black History.  Ms. Geneva and others provided adult education and literacy classes.  Groups met for classes and there were even programs for children. The entire Education Connection Program, as it was called, operated out of Vance.

After 30 years, Ms. Cooper retired in 1977. She served as branch director for 10 years.

Ms. Cooper never married or had children. The entire community became her family. Ms. Cooper worshipped at First Baptist Church Chelsea, where she was baptized in 1914.

In December 2013, at the age of 99, she was featured in The Commercial Appeal’s story titled “9 over 90.” The article celebrated nine women who were still active in their churches and communities.

A librarian, teacher, mentor and community leader, Ms. Geneva Cooper readily acknowledged that she had been blessed with longevity and a rich, rewarding life.


(The information for this story was drawn from the Memphis Living Legends presentation of Ms. Geneva Cooper.)