Some say he was Australia's Martin Luther King. William Cooper saw his Aboriginal people dying around him and decided black lives matter. Starvation and discrimination took their toll. He became passionate that they should have a voice in Australia's federal parliament.
But his people could not vote and were not even counted in the census. How could he get the government to listen to him? Would his skills in oratory, letter-writing and organizing his people into the first national black organization achieve his goals or would his activism bring backlash?
Betrayed by the Prime Minister who would not forward his petition to the King of England, Cooper joined with other leaders in Sydney for the 150th anniversary of white settlement and organized a protest called the Day of Mourning. This set in train the controversy that still surrounds Australia Day today. Cooper campaigned for the truth of the black history of white Australia to be told. He mentored future generations of leaders who are still calling for "voice, treaty, truth" today. This book covers the history of the struggle for First Nations peoples' human rights from settlement to today.
William Cooper was born in 1860 to his tribal mother who saw the first white settlers come to the Murray River. He lost his son Dan in World War 1. Cooper was anguished that Aboriginal soldiers gave their lives for a country that had stolen their land and dignity. He campaigned for a new deal but was it a pipe dream?
Cooper's health was failing but he had lit a fire that would not be put out. One of those who picked up the baton was his grandson, Alf Turner or Uncle Boydie. Could Uncle Boydie unearth the petition Cooper meant for the King in the 1930's and find a way to get it to the King's granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth 11? Poetic justice but a near-impossible task.
Historian Barbara Miller has written a number of riveting books on Australian history and biography and makes history come alive. Miller was a finalist in the Queensland Literary Awards for the Premier's Award for a Work of State Significance in 2018 for her memoir "White Woman Black Heart: Journey Home to Old Mapoon."
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