Josie Johnson, a committed educator and activist

Josie R. Johnson
Tue, 1930-10-07

*Josie Johnson was born on this date in 1930. She is an African American educator, activist and administrator.

From Houston, TX Josie Robinson Johnson is one of three children 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 stage coaches in Texas.

Johnson has played an active role in the 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 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 member of the Minneapolis Urban League staff, 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 civil right unrest. In 1971, Johnson became the first African-American to serve as a regent on the University Of Minnesota Board Of Regents. Johnson was executive assistant/ chief of staff to the lieutenant governor of Colorado- first African American lieutenant since Reconstruction -from 1975 to 1978. In 1978 Johnson went back 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 in the University Of Minnesota in late 1980s as faculty in the College of Education and 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, a Minnesota Medical Foundation trustee and sits on the advisory board of the Harriet Tubman Center. She is a recipient of 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. Norrene Elaine Johnson Duffy, Electrical Engineer, President, Red Bridge Consulting and Josie Irene Johnson Thomas, Lawyer, Senior Vice President Diversity CBS Television. Johnson also three granddaughters; they are Lauren Noelle Thomas, Josie Helen Duffy, and Rosa Patrice Duffy.

African American Registry
Box 19441
Minneapolis, MN 55419

To become a High School Teacher

Person / name: 

Johnson, Josie R.