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Kentucky Politics: John Sherman Cooper

Activity Information for Instructors


Cooper, left with Rep. Tim Lee Carter

Slaughter, T. (n.d.). [Government] [Photograph]. Flickr.

This activity is designed to help first and second year undergraduate students understand the importance of primary sources for Kentucky history. Students will learn about the civil rights movement, the Cold War, and the Great Depression through listening to oral history interviews about John Sherman Cooper's life experiences and political career. Students will be able to understand these seminal moments in the twentieth century through the perspective of someone who played a major role in these events, both locally and nationally. Instructors can use these materials to have discussions about Kentucky politics, Kentucky history, and how the dynamics of the U.S. changed from the 1930s up until the 1960s, especially in terms of its foreign policy, social structure, and domestic policy.

This module is divided up into six main categories according to Cooper's political contributions and legacy:

  • Civil rights
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Anti-ballistic missile system debates
  • Diplomacy
  • Domestic policy
  • Friendship with JFK

 Learning Outcomes

  • Determine the significance of oral history interviews and their creators based on content analysis
  • Analyze the importance of oral history by considering the political context in which they were created
  • Evaluate the utility of primary sources for research or creative projects

Activity Instructions for Students

First, students will get into groups predetermined by the instructor. Each group will be assigned a different tab of the module. Each tab contains questions for reflection. Students will then break into groups, either in-person or virtually in Zoom breakout sessions. Students in each group will listen to the featured interview for their tab. Students will work through the questions and then reconvene as a class for a group discussion about their findings on the different tabs. Classes that are 50 minutes will be given 25 minutes to work through the activity and 25 minutes for class discussion. In classes that are 75 minutes, students will be given two tabs to work through, with 20 minutes allotted for each tab. The remainder of the class period will be devoted to class discussion.