Concordia St. Paul News

October 10, 2013

Local Civil Rights Leader Dr. Josie R. Johnson Speaking at Concordia


Local civil rights leader Dr. Josie R. Johnson is the featured speaker at Concordia University, St. Paul’s 2013 Bartling Lecture, Wednesday, Oct. 16 from 10:30 – 11:25 a.m., in the Buenger Education Center. The title of this year’s lecture is “Voting Rights and Equality in America”, which will celebrate the life and work of Dr. Johnson. The event is free and open to the public.

The Bartling History Lecture Series was launched on Nov. 2, 2011, with an inspiring speech by Dr. Fred Bartling about his experiences as a pastor in the Deep South during the early days of the Civil Rights era. The lecture series, along with the Fred and Ruth Bartling Scholarship, were launched to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Bartling’s arrival at Concordia University. The lecture series focuses on issues of human and civil rights; both important themes in Dr. Bartling’s distinguished teaching career.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Josie R. Johnson, now 83, has been active in the civil rights movement since her teen years when she and her father gathered signatures for an anti-poll tax petition in Texas. In 1963, Johnson led the Minnesota delegation to the historic March on Washington.  A year later, she and a multi-racial group of women conducted a secret fact-finding mission to Mississippi. Their goal was to witness first-hand the plight of African Americans who were trying to register to vote. Most recently, Dr. Johnson fought against the Voter ID initiative in Minnesota and continues to speak out in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to gut the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

An activist for equality for over five-decades, Dr. Johnson is one of Minnesota’s most celebrated civil rights leaders. Called a “trailblazer” and “The First Lady of Minnesota Civil Rights,” her distinguished career includes positions as a lobbyist, community and campaign organizer, educator and administrator, and an advisor to political leaders. She was the Director of the Minneapolis Urban League, a professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, and completed her career as a principal at a school serving primarily low-income African American students.

Dr. Johnson is the recipient of numerous awards and was recently featured on the front page of the Star Tribune for her involvement in the civil rights movement. She was also the first African American member of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. In Dr. Johnson’s honor, the UM now grants a special award for Human Rights and Social Justice.

Dr. Johnson earned a B.A. in Sociology from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and a M.A. and Ed. D at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.