History Archives - StoryCorps
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“Our Father Taught Us To Love Ourself”: Remembering The Man Who Brought Juneteenth To San Diego

Long before Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in the U.S., Sidney Cooper had been celebrating the hallowed day for decades.

Sidney grew up in a predominantly Black town just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Juneteenth celebrations were a common part of his upbringing.

In the early 1950s, Sidney settled down in Southern California, and he became an early Black business owner in a predominantly white area.


Sidney Cooper (center) with his daughter, Lana (left), and his wife, Thelma (right), in front of the Cooper family barbershop and produce stand on Imperial Avenue. Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.

Sidney taught his children many lessons on family and community, but he also taught them the importance of celebrating Juneteenth — even when no one else in his community was acknowledging the holiday.


Marla Cooper celebrating at the family’s annual Juneteenth celebration in San Diego. Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.

A banner honoring the memory of Sidney Cooper at the family’s annual Juneteenth celebration.
Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.

His daughters, Marla and Lana, came to StoryCorps to remember their dad and the legacy he left in his community.

Top Photo: Lana Cooper-Jones and Marla Cooper at their StoryCorps interview in San Diego, CA on May 11, 2022 for StoryCorps.

Originally aired Friday, June 17, on NPR’s Morning Edition.