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Tue, 10.07.1930

Josie Johnson, Educator, Author, and Activist born

Josie R. Johnson

*Josie Johnson was born on this date in 1930. She is a Black educator, activist, and administrator.

Josie Robinson Johnson is one of three children from Houston, TX, born to Judson and Josie Robinson. Her great-grandfather Ralph was twelve years old when emancipation from slavery was granted. As a child, he was employed to furnish a step stool for white women to use as they stepped down from carriages and stagecoaches in Texas.

Johnson has played an active role in the American Civil Rights movement since her teenage years when she and her father gathered signatures on an anti-poll tax petition in her hometown. She earned a B.A. in Sociology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and an M.A. and Ed.D at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

In the early 1960s, Johnson lobbied professionally for the passage of bills concerning such issues as fair housing and employment opportunities. In 1964, she traveled from Minneapolis to Mississippi with an integrated group of women to witness and report on the Civil Rights struggle there. After visiting an open-air freedom school where black and white college-age students were organizing, the group learned the school was bombed the next day.  Johnson became a community organizer for Project ENABLE, a pioneering effort in developing parenting skills and strengthening family life in 1965. As a Minneapolis Urban League staff member, she served as a community organizer.

In 1967 and 1968, she served as acting director of the Agency. That same year, she became a legislative liaison and community liaison with the mayor of Minneapolis during their racial unrest.  In 1971, Johnson became the first Black to serve as a regent on the University Of Minnesota Board Of Regents.  From 1975 to 1978, she was executive assistant/chief of staff to the lieutenant governor of Colorado, the first Black lieutenant since Reconstruction.  In 1978 Johnson returned to Texas and supervised Judson Robinson's campaign staff.

In 1980, she served as deputy campaign manager for the Jimmy Carter presidential campaign in Tennessee. Johnson returned to the University Of Minnesota in the late 1980s as faculty in the College of Education and a senior fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. She later served as the associate vice president for Academic Affairs with special responsibility for minority affairs and diversity. She held this position from 1992 to 1996.

Simi-retired, she founded Josie Robinson Johnson and Associates in 1996. She has served as a Minneapolis Institute of Arts trustee and a Minnesota Medical Foundation trustee and sits on the advisory board of the Harriet Tubman Center. She received the Committed to the Vision Award from the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights and the African American Community Endowment Fund Award. The University of Minnesota created The Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award in 1997.

Robinson is the mother of three daughters. Patrice Yvonne Johnson, Chief of Staff for Congressman Mickey Leland, died in 1989. Norene Elaine Johnson Duffy, Electrical Engineer, President of Red Bridge Consulting, and Josie Irene Johnson Thomas, Lawyer, Senior Vice President of Diversity CBS Television. Johnson also has three granddaughters; are Lauren Noelle Thomas, Josie Helen Duffy, and Rosa Patrice Duffy.

The University of Minnesota established the Josie Robinson Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award in 1997.  In 2018, the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs established the Josie Robinson Johnson Fellowship for students focusing on racial inequities and injustice.  Her 2019 memoir, Hope in the Struggle, provides insights into her life's work as well as the racial history of the Twin Cities.

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