Dr. Josie Robinson Johnson is a locally renowned American community organizer and activist for African American rights. Described by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as the "First Lady of Minnesota Civil Rights." She has been a lifelong advocate for equity in housing, education, and voting rights.
Born October 7, 1930, San Antonio, Texas. After attending Fisk University, she married Charles W. Johnson, and the couple moved to Minneapolis in 1956.
Upon arriving in Minnesota, Johnson became a community organizer for the local affiliate office of the Urban League, holding the acting director position from 1967 to 1968, and became active in the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party. She was an officer in the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP and held a position in the Minneapolis chapter of Jack and Jill of America, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children. Johnson worked with the League of Women Voters in Minnesota in collaboration with Black and Jewish neighborhood associations to set up Fair Employment Practice Commissions in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Minnesota. She was the first Black woman to be appointed to the National Board of the League of Women Voters, and the first Black person appointed to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. Johnson was instrumental in the success of a fair housing bill in Minnesota in 1962.
Her 2019 memoir, “Hope in the Struggle”, provides insights into her life's work as well as the racial history of the Twin Cities
August 25, 1998 - MPR’s John Rabe reports on local African American leaders from the Twin Cities talking with local black leaders in South Africa.
September 18, 2006 - MPR’s Stephen Smith moderates a civil rights panel discussion with an author, an activist, a teacher and a former vice president of the United States at the Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis.
August 14, 2008 - MPR’s Tom Scheck reports on Obama campaign focus on senior citizen votes. Report includes comments from Walter Mondale, former U.S. vice president; Josie Johnson, local civil rights leader; and Tom Steward, spokesperson for presidential candidate John McCain.
August 28, 2008 - MPR’s Curtis Gilbert talks with civil rights activist Josie Johnson about the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama.
November 5, 2008 - MPR Brandt Williams reports on local reaction to Obama’s election to become President of the United States.
November 5, 2012 - MPR’s Tim Pugmire reports on the Minnesota Voter Identification Amendment that is on 2012 ballot. Report includes commentary from both proponents and opponents of amendment.
August 18, 2017 - The Minneapolis City Council chambers erupted in applause and a standing ovation Friday morning, as Medaria Arradondo was appointed the city's first African American police chief. One of the dozens of supporters in the chamber today was civil rights legend Dr. Josie Johnson. MPR’s Brandt Williams asked Johnson what Arradondo's appointment signals to members of the city's African American community.
October 16, 2018 - MPR’s Peter Cox reports on creation of Josie Robinson Johnson fellowship. The University of Minnesota is establishing a fellowship in the name of one of the state's foremost civil rights leaders. The Josie Robinson Johnson fellowship will go to graduate students at the Humphrey School for Public Affairs who have specific interest in addressing racial inequities and injustices - a subject Johnson and other luminaries reflected on at event announcement.
April 3, 2019 - MPR’s Marianne Combs presents a profile of Josie Johnson, renowned local civil rights activist. Feature includes interview with Johnson about her life and book, and comments from Vernon Jordan and Walter Mondale, amongst others. Johnson’s memoir is titled "Hope in the Struggle."