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Wed, 06.24.1914

Carl Braden, Trade Unionist, and Activist

Carl Braden

*Carl Braden was born on this date in 1914. He was a white-American trade unionist, journalist, and activist.

He was born in New Albany, Indiana. He worked for several newspapers in Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois. His parents were Catholics, but his father had lost his faith and became an agnostic socialist. Carl's father was a member of the Socialist Party of America and used to take his son to political meetings. Young Braden went to a Catholic school; at thirteen, the nuns encouraged him to put his intellectual abilities in the service of God and to begin studying to become a priest, but he left his Roman Catholic seminary in Louisville at the age of 16.

In 1948, while working as a reporter in Kentucky, he met and married fellow journalist Anne Gambrell McCarty. The couple had three children. James, Anita, and Elizabeth. In 1948, Braden and his wife left mainstream journalism to apply their talent as writers to the interracial left wing of the labor movement through the FE (Farm and Equipment Workers) Union, representing Louisville's International Harvester employees.

In 1954, the Bradens helped a black couple, Andrew, and Charlotte Wade, who wanted to buy a suburban home but could not due to housing discrimination. The Bradens purchased a house in Shively, an all-white neighborhood in the Louisville metropolitan area, and deeded it to the Wade family. White segregationists immediately lashed out, throwing rocks through the windows, burning a cross in front of it, firing gunshots into the home – and setting off explosives under the bedroom, driving the Wades out and destroying the home.

Although housing discrimination was illegal, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled specifically on a case in Louisville, Buchanan v. Warley, in 1917; Braden was charged with sedition and hatching a communist plot to stir up a race war. Braden denied the accusations. He was convicted on December 13, 1954, and sentenced to 15 years. Immediately upon his conviction, he was fired from the Courier-Journal and served seven months of his sentence before he was released on a $40,000 bond pending appeal. His conviction was then overturned. His wife, Anne, chronicled the ordeal and used it as the basis for her book The Wall Between, published in 1958.

When appearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Braden refused to answer questions, saying the questions violated his First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court heard the case as the United States as Braden v. United States, 365 U.S. 431 (1961). The court ruled against Braden, saying his conviction was constitutional. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference hosted a reception honoring Frank Wilkinson and Carl Braden on April 30, 1961, the day before they went to jail for defying the House Un-American Activities Committee. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. James Dombrowski were at this reception honoring Wilkinson and Braden. Braden was sentenced to a year in prison and was released after serving nine months of the sentence.

In 1967, the Bradens were again charged with sedition for protesting strip mining in Pike County, Kentucky. The couple was blocked from local employment in Kentucky. They took jobs as field organizers for the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), developing their own media attention through SCEF's monthly newspaper, The Southern Patriot, and numerous pamphlets and press releases publicizing major civil-rights campaigns. The Bradens were acclaimed by young student activists of the 1960s and among the Civil Rights Movement's most dedicated white allies.

The Bradens dedicated their lives to impelling whites for the cause of justice for all people and especially fought racism. After Carl Braden died, his wife remained active in networks of anti-racist work. While raising their children, they were frequent targets for attacks from southern white supremacists. Carl Braden died of a heart attack on February 18, 1975.

To be a journalist or Reporter.

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