0:00

FOSL: --ninety-one. And, uh, I'm, a, start with a personal question, Mr. Johnson. And it's just curious. I, I, um, I've asked you this before, and I've forgotten. But how old are you? When were you born?

JOHNSON: I was born in 1906, June 12, which means just a few days ago, I, I, I, reached eighty-five.

FOSL: Wow. And, and, are you from Louisville?

JOHNSON: No. I was born, and reared, high school, through high school, in, uh, Columbia, Tennessee.

FOSL: Right. And then what brought you to Louisville?

JOHNSON: After finishing college, after, two and a half years of graduate work at the University of Michigan, right in the middle, right in the very bottom of the, uh, 1930 Depression, Depression, I 1:00was looking for a job. And I stumbled into uh, uh, a vacancy here at Central High School in Louisville. And there, I got stuck.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: I was, I was running from the, from the Depression.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: I was down-and-out, broke, owed everybody, hungry.

FOSL: And so you had your master's degree at that time?

JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah. I had a year beyond the master's.

FOSL: Um-hm. And you got a job teaching hist-, --

JOHNSON: Cen-, Central High School. I passed through Louisville on my, in my search. I had left the university. I had gone to Pittsburgh and gone to Philadelphia, down to Baltimore, down to Richmond. And my sister, who used to live here, she's deceased now, and her husband, who 2:00is also deceased, they caught up with me over in Richmond and sent me a letter and asked me, "Come here. And, and, and quit floundering around, just going from flop-house to flop-house." And they would give me--

FOSL: What year was this again?

JOHNSON: --and they would give me, they would give me some work to do, uh, since I was rather, before I even went to, uh, to college, I was fairly proficient as a, as a carpenter and, uh, as a painter. And I came in and worked for my brother-in-law and picked up, uh, from him, enough to kind of sustain me. And all of a sudden, a, a person retired, I mean, uh, uh, resigned from his job at Central High School. And a vacancy occurred two weeks before school opened. And, of 3:00course, a bunch of us rushed in to take that job.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And, and, uh--

FOSL: Now, what year was this?

JOHNSON: Nineteen thirty-three.

FOSL: Thirty-three?

JOHNSON: Yeah. And when the, um, when the superintendent saw all, all of that, all of those credits off of, um, academic credits, college, and, uh, two and a half years at Michigan, they said, "Well, gosh, this is the man."

JOHNSON: Didn't go any further.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: Put me in right straight. And I stayed there thirty-three years.

FOSL: Thirty-three years?

JOHNSON: Um-hm.

FOSL: But then I, I know that in around forty-eight, you got to wanting to go back to school, right?

JOHNSON: No, no. I, uh, I'd gotten fairly well settled over at, at, uh, at Central. Uh, uh, I was then beginning to be established as a fairly good teacher. And, uh, with all, all the training that I had behind 4:00me, uh, somehow the principal and the, uh, and his staff, his, uh, counseling staff began to shuttle the, the college-bound students. You see, in, in the days of segregation, they had several schools here for white people, high schools. One school for Negroes, that's the reason why it was called Central. And Negroes from all across the county, all across the city and the county, came to Central.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Came to that one Negro school, and, therefore, it was call Central High. And, uh, we had a, um, a, uh, a, a, a school, a high school, that, uh, was composed of all levels. We, we took the, uh, 5:00fast track and the slow learners, all under one roof. And we, we became rather specialized in, uh, how to handle, without getting confused, uh, a, among ourselves, how to handle brilliant people and dumb cluckers in the same building.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And we did pretty well at it. And I found, uh, by the time, by 1948, when you, uh, had referenced, uh--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --1948, I had, by that time, sort of, uh, become a, a, a fixture over there at Central. And, uh, they were beginning to show at the top, top, uh, track from my class in, uh, civics and government.

6:00

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And, uh, well, I was beginning to be sort of recognized as a, uh, fixture around town. I was in the, in the, uh, civic world, outside, outside of the, the school in, uh, civic activities. And, uh, I was beginning to get, get tied down with a family. I had a wife and two kids. And that wasn't, that wasn't conducive to going back to taking more work as a, uh, as a, a graduate student.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: I had, I had put bread on the table for, uh, for these people that I had gotten, uh, wrapped around me.

FOSL: Right. (laughs)

JOHNSON: And so, uh, what I did, I guess what you have reference to, is I did go back to, I go to the University of Kentucky.

FOSL: Um-hm.

7:00

JOHNSON: I made an application for summer work at the University of Kentucky in 1948. Now, I, uh, all in, in spite of all, all, all of what I claim was academic training, uh, college and beyond college, uh, I, I maintain that in order to keep up with the latest things out, a teacher ought to, uh, go back occasionally to the university for refresher courses--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --so that the young cats, when they came out, they couldn't come out and say that I was an old-timer.

FOSL: Yeah.

JOHNSON: Said, "Well, I already have a foundation way beyond what you have." But, in addition, I come up with, uh, with, uh, some of the latest stuff out. So you know, don't, don't think I'm an old timer. I, I, I have just as up-to-date teaching procedures as anybody else.

8:00

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Well, uh, go up to, uh, U-, U K and take, um, a summer course, uh, two maybe, uh, three classes. Three, three, that would be summer ses-, session. I had, had taken summer sessions, uh, over at, uh, Michigan and at Wisconsin, in addition to what I had wh-- when I started, see. And that's when, uh, uh, really, when I went up, when I chose to go for that refresher work to the University of Kentucky. I picked Kentucky to make a test case on why they wouldn't admit, uh, Negro students.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And when they refused my application, then I brought on the big guns and, uh, sued the hell out of them.

9:00

FOSL: Now, were you working with the NAACP here--

JOHNSON: Absolutely.

FOSL: --here in Louisville?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. Here and the national office.

FOSL: Um-hm. From your first moment of thinking about it, or--

JOHNSON: All the way through.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: They, they, uh, they helped to point out little things. Now, you do this, do this and do this, you build your case.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: See, they, that New York office was an expert on that.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And, uh, incidentally, you know who my, my chief lawyer in all of this was?

FOSL: Who was that?

JOHNSON: Did you ever hear of a man named Thurgood Marshall?

FOSL: Uh, yes, I just had the feeling you might say that. I saw that TV special about him last night.

JOHNSON: Now, he, Thurgood Marshall had, he had, he, he was then the chief counsel for the, uh, NAACP.

FOSL: Legal defense for--

JOHNSON: Yes.

JOHNSON: And so he, uh, he would, he would say, "Now, uh, you do this. You, you do this. You make this stick. You, you, you, you do this, you do this, you do this. And you're laying the basis for me to come along with my legal, uh, legal attack, and say, "Why did you turn this 10:00man down?'"

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: "Did you do this? Did you do that? Did you do that?" Yeah, I did all these things. "And then they turned you down? Now, Mr., Mr. President, why? Give us a reason."

FOSL: Now, where did they try to get you to go instead? Where, what were the options for blacks at that level--

JOHNSON: Who?

FOSL: --in Kentucky?

JOHNSON: Who, who's the they?

FOSL: I mean, they being the powers that be.

JOHNSON: Yeah. Oh, you don't, you don't mean, uh, where did Marshall want us--

FOSL: No, no, no. No.

JOHNSON: No. Uh, uh, they, um, they had passed a, a, a state law, or a state, uh, bill, state legislature. There was a man, Negro, named Charles W. Anderson, Jr., who, uh, had the distinction of being a Republican in a Democratic, uh, environment, and continued to get 11:00elected to the legislature from 1936 right straight through for about, uh, ten or twelve years. Now, during his time, when the state did not provide any facility for graduate work for Negroes--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --he got the legislature to pass a, uh, um, to, to, to, uh, pass a bill that would appropriate funds sufficient that when a, a student wanted to take graduate work, which wasn't open to the Negro inside the state, and was open to white people, to make it have the appearance of being separate but still not equal--

FOSL: Right

JOHNSON: --but still separate.

They would let you choose to go to some school that would accept 12:00Negroes. And then you send back your bill for tuition and whatever, uh, expenses--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --that you would, uh, incur over and above what, uh, um, a white student would, would have do. So, uh, many, many students could go to--

FOSL: I see what you're saying.

JOHNSON: --uh, northern universities. There were no southern universities that would take Negroes. They, they were following the same pattern that, uh, Kentucky was doing. So, uh--

FOSL: Except for black campuses such as Morehouse, right?

JOHNSON: Well, that, that was undergraduate.

FOSL: I see. I see.

JOHNSON: See, I finished college.

FOSL: Right, but so, well, they have graduate programs now, I think. But, maybe not then.

JOHNSON: Yeah. Well, but not then. Not then.

FOSL: I see.

JOHNSON: Not then.

FOSL: Okay.

JOHNSON: Not then. There wasn't a graduate school in the south that was recognized. There were two, uh, Negro colleges that were beginning to 13:00try to fill the, uh, the, the, the, the, uh, purpose of graduate study. They were Fisk and Atlanta University.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Atlanta University, uh, tacked on a graduate school. But it, you know, a graduate school will take, uh, eight or ten or maybe fifteen years to, to move up into the--

FOSL: Right

JOHNSON: --the place where it's, uh, its work will be accepted by other graduate schools.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: You just don't, don't start at the first year. Now, uh, uh, a, a, a black student who wanted a mas-, a, uh, a master' degree or a Ph.D. degree would be, uh, kidding himself if he'd been of the first, two, three year products of these two schools--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --Atlanta and Fisk. So, uh, um, if you could go, if you could 14:00get enough money to go to one of the northern schools, there wasn't any point of having put in all the hard work, the grind, to get a master's or a Ph.D. at a school that doesn't have any standing--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --as compared with a, a school like Michigan, Ohio State, Columbia, Yale--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --Harvard, anything like that. Now, to me that's better than anything down south. They right!

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Uh, one of the jokes I put on, uh, the city system here was that they were paying Negro teachers, for the same academic credits and experience, 15 percent less than they paid white teachers. And I, I said, well, one day I was out at the board of education arguing the point, and I said, "Well, well, Mr. President," president of the board 15:00of education, "Mr. President, you have a white, white teacher, a, a, a young man, who has a master's degree, and he has the same number of, uh, credits. No, he doesn't have quite as many credits as I do in graduate work, but he does have a master's degree. And I have a master's degree. He teaches history. I teach history. We both work for the same system. We work, we both work for you, for the, for the city board of education. But he gets 100 percent of the salary, and I get 85 percent. Why? Why do, I teach the same subject to the same, have the s--, same teaching load, that is same number of students, same number of classes a day, same number of, uh, work, um, assignments for the week. But at the end of the, e, end of, at, at, at the end of the 16:00pay period, I'll only get 85 percent."

FOSL: And what was his reply?

JOHNSON: I said, "And, and, but now, both of us have master's degrees. But he has a master's degree from the University of Alabama, and I have a master's degree from the University of Michigan. But the University of Michigan doesn't recognize a master's from, uh, uh, the University of Alabama. But still, the, the master's from the unrated u--, university gets 15 percent more pay than the man who, who comes from a prestigious university like Michigan. How do you account for that?"

"Oh, well!"

I said, "That doesn't suit me. Oh, well, tha--, tha--, tha--, that doesn't answer my question.

FOSL: Hmm.

JOHNSON: Now, uh, all of, uh, all, all everybody's saying, back on the University of Kentucky, is, uh, I, uh, I wound up there in 1948. And 17:00they put me out because they had a, a law, state law, saying Negro and white students couldn't go to school together in the state of Kentucky, public school, high school, private, parochial, or, or, or whatnot, public. And, uh, that law was passed in 1903.

FOSL: So you all mounted the first real challenge to that Day Law, right?

JOHNSON: That's right.

FOSL: And what, would you say that there was very much going on in the way of, uh, racial equality?

JOHNSON: No.

FOSL: I, I mean, very much struggle that had gone on here--

JOHNSON: Uh, no--

FOSL: -- before that?

JOHNSON: -- the struggle on the part of blacks to get, uh, equality. Um, um, we were beginning to dig our heels, uh, and, and dig in. We were, we were, were beginning to, to, to make, uh, making, make inroads. Uh, that's a, that's a, a, um, a, a, story that should be, 18:00uh, written up and put into clear perspective. Uh, it hasn't been done yet, and, uh, it ought to. Um, back in the thirties, one Negro wanted to ride, wanted to eat in the dining, diner on a, on a train. No, can't do it. They took the kids, the Negroes, the NAACP, took the kids to the, uh, I think, uh, what is that, uh, commission? That Interstate and Travel, handles the--

FOSL: Yeah, the, uh, Interstate Commerce Commission.

JOHNSON: --Commerce Commission. And, uh, we just about, uh, well, we, we, we, we were rattling the gates--

19:00

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --uh, we, we won, and we lost. We won, and we lost on that. But that was back in, in the early thirties, and then another one, another one, uh, uh, wanted to go to law school over in Maryland. Uh--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: What was that?

FOSL: I remember that.

JOHNSON: Oh, um, uh, I forget that young man's name. He wanted to go to law school in Maryland, and that was toward the end of the phase. And, uh, he won his case. They had to admit him. But somehow, um, they used all sorts of intimidation and, uh, frightened him away from the place.

FOSL: Ah!

JOHNSON: So, we won, but we lost.--

FOSL: Well, here in Louisville--

JOHNSON: --And then, another case, out in St. Louis, practically, the same thing. It may be that the powers that be, private, private powers 20:00gave the man, gave the man just beaucoups of money. "You, won your case, now, damn it, if you, if you go up there, we're gonna send the Klu Klux out there and, and, they, they'll, they'll string you up to a tree. Now, here's some money. Go, go, go, go spend it, have a good time, but don't, don't come back up--. Don't--. Uh, you won your right to go, but don't, don't use it."

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: An--, and he never went. Uh, he was afraid to go.

FOSL: Ah.

JOHNSON: And then another case, and another case, and another case. And finally, uh, well, we began to attack all across the country. Out in Oklahoma, and down in, uh, in, uh, oh, other places. And they did it in, in, uh, Kentucky.

FOSL: Well, would you say that your case was the first really serious sort of large-scale challenge to segregation here in Louisville?

JOHNSON: Oh, uh, here in this area?

FOSL: In this area.

JOHNSON: Well, no, no. Go back to 1917. Buchanan v. Warley, the 21:00Supreme Court case. Did you ever hear of that one?

FOSL: Uh-uh.

JOHNSON: Uh, in 1914, the City of Louisville passed an ordinance prohibiting mixing of the races--

FOSL: Hmm.

JOHNSON: --in residential districts.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: It, it specifically said, "If a block of residence, if a street block has a majority of one race, the minority in that block will not have to move, but no more of the minority can come into the block, from that time on." Which meant that, uh, if a,--

FOSL: Hmm.

JOHNSON: -- if a block was all white except two pla-, two people, two 22:00families, those two Negro families could stay there, live up their lives there, but they couldn't sell it to another Negro.

FOSL: Hmm.

JOHNSON: Nor could another Negro come and buy next door to them.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: See? Or, if a, a majority were Negroes, whites couldn't go in.

FOSL: Humph!

JOHNSON: Now, that was racial segregation. Racial, residential, segregation. And, uh, the NAACP, 1914, started fighting it. And by 1917, they won a federal, uh, ----------(??), Supreme Court decision that that was unconstitutional, and, uh, the city ordinance was thrown out. And, uh, that, that became a landmark. Now, Richmond, when I was 23:00going to school over at Richmond, 1928, Richmond passed the same sort of a law that Louisville had passed.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Negroes over there took the case to court. And, uh, the court wouldn't even hear the case. They said, "We've answered that question in the Buchanan v. Warley, 1917. Go read that."

FOSL: Um.

JOHNSON: New Orleans passed, uh, the same sort of a law. And, uh, Negroes took that case to court, and, and the court said, "We won't hear that. We've answered that in the Louisville case." And from then on, I think St. Louis tried to start some, some sort of foolishness along that line. And, uh, their lawyers said. "No, no. You can't, 24:00you can't get away with that. They've already answered that. Buchanan v. Warley."

See?

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: A, a Supreme Court decision becomes a, a, a, a, uh, historic landmark.

FOSL: Well, getting back to your case for a minute. As you know, the, the book that I'm working on has to do with racial justice in the south and in Kentucky, but especially through one person's experiences, Anne Braden. So I know that you met her about that time--

JOHNSON: Um-hm.

FOSL: --because she was, um--

JOHNSON: She came and wro-, wrote me up in the paper when I was, uh, uh, when I applied, uh, to the university. Uh, the, the, it, it, it, it was quite something. Here's, here's a, a, a Negro school teacher, public school teacher, bucking the state law. Bucking the, the state law, it's supposed to be the representative of the, of the wishes of 25:00the people.

FOSL: Um-hm. Were you aware at the time that she had to fight to get very much coverage of your case into the paper?

JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. She told me.

FOSL: Okay. Well, tell me about that first meeting with her, what you remember, and how, how you think she played a role in your case, just in terms of that media coverage.

JOHNSON: Now, I don't know how much she did beyond being just a reporter.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: I don't know what, I don't e--. I expect, I expect she would have jeopardized her, her, her credentials as a, uh, impartial reporter had she been too, uh, sympathetic.--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --Or if she had been, uh, attempting to promote my case. I can see that that would be, uh, unprofessional.

FOSL: Right. I think her main thing was to really, you know, engage in 26:00a debate with her editors about the importance of this.

JOHNSON: But, yeah. But, but there is where under, under the whole procedure, her sympathies were with me, and therefore, she could express her professional proclivities without, uh, actually being guilty of being, uh, prejudice in my favor.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: So, uh, I, I, I think, maybe, I, I can give her credit and, and sort of thank her for being on my side.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: But, uh, she hedged herself with all the, uh, uh, protections of her profession.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: "I'm a journalist." "I'm a reporter." "And I report what's, now, uh, to the, to the editor, to the editor in chief." Or, uh, she 27:00could easily say, "This is, this is something that's, uh, you're going to shock the whole, who--, whole nation. And, and, y--, you ought, you, your paper ought to, ought to cover it--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --ought to cover it. And, and, I'm, I'm, I'm on top of it, and, and here it is. Here it is. Here it is. An--"

FOSL: At that time of meeting her and talking with her, she came over to Central High School to interview you, didn't she?

JOHNSON: I remember she came over and introduced herself to me. She said, "Lyman Johnson?" I said, "Yes." "I'm a reporter." I don't know whether it was for the Times or the--

FOSL: It was the Times, I think.

JOHNSON: She said, "I'm a reporter. And, uh, I understand you're planning to go to the, you're, you're, you're going to apply to go to the University of Kentucky." I said, "That's right."

"Do you care if I, or, uh, take a few notes and, and, and, and write 28:00up, uh, this in, and have it, uh, in the paper?" I said, "No." I said, "It's, it's gonna be in the paper sooner or later. So, uh, what do you want to know?" And I remember, um, she pulled up a chair, in, in the classroom. This was after school--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: She was, she'd go right down the lines of, uh, protecting herself and me. She didn't come down there on school time. But, she came down there before I left school.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: School had been dismissed, all the kids were gone. So then I was on my own time. Although, I was on, on school property.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And, uh, some of the other teachers had told her, uh, Mr. Johnson's room down, way down the hallway there. He's still down there. [train sound] Yes, go on down there. And so she, evidently, got there at time for school to close for the day, for the, uh, kids to be dismissed. But she didn't start, uh, searching me out until the, 29:00the bell rang for--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --dismissal. [train sound] And, uh, then she came on i--, in, and I was, you know, just, uh, putting aside some of the, putting up some of the bo--, books and materials in the space up, and put them in the, in the cabinets and the shelves, and, and, you know, tidying up my, my desk and, and, uh, getting ready to leave, and whatnot. So, I, I just sat at the, at the teacher's desk.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: I kind of s--, hung myself on, you know how you can kind of hang on--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --hang on, on, on to a desk. Not exactly sitting down on it, but, uh, pretty well, propped up against it.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And she pulled up a chair in front of me. And she just scribbled and scribbled and, and talked and scribbled and asked 30:00questions and the, the, and then, uh, I, I guess the next day or two days, uh, out comes this, uh--, um, pretty nice, pretty nice, uh, pretty lengthy, uh, report. "Lyman Johnson threatens, I mean, uh, plans to, uh--"

FOSL: I can tell you what that headline said. It said, "Negro may sue for right to enter University of Kentucky."

JOHNSON: Huh?

FOSL: Yep.

JOHNSON: And then they go, she goes right on down the line and tell--, tells about who the Negro is and what he's doing and whatnot. And that's when phone calls began to come, and threatening things began--

FOSL: Um. Yeah.

JOHNSON: --to come my way. And my wife was given--. She was almost ru--, run out of, I mean, threatened out of town.--

FOSL: Hmm.

JOHNSON: "Y--, y--, why'd--? Oh, my, God! Do I have to go through all this? And is, is this what, i--, is this what being married to you 31:00get--, (laughs), gets me?

FOSL: Little did she know, huh? (laughs) Well, um, did you get any idea at that time that Anne was, you know, did you sense any more zeal in her? Anything other than just an ordinary, you know, rather good reporter?

JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, yeah. Anne was, Anne was so spunky. Uh, after that, I, I, I, I begin, I began to, uh, uh, increase my acquaintance with her. And, uh, now, right up the street here, this is, uh, 8th and--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --Muhammad Ali.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Muhammad Ali used to be called Walnut Street.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: Eighth and Walnut. Now, from Eighth up to Sixth Street, were just, uh, two blocks of little Negro business places, little--

32:00

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --little, little shops. All sorts of shops, all along facing on old Walnut Street.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: But when you got up to Sixth Street, it kind of spread north and south--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --on Sixth. And, uh, maybe two blocks, uh, down toward, uh, Broadway, and, uh, two blocks back toward, uh, Main Street on, on, on Sixth Street.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: But there's a kind of a, uh, not exactly an unwritten law, but there was a definite, uh, definite established, uh, understanding that Negro businesses didn't go beyond Sixth Street.

FOSL: Hmm.

33:00

JOHNSON: Because after you pass Sixth Street, you come to Fifth and Fourth. And Fourth was the main, at that time we didn't have any shopping centers out in the, in the suburbs, and the main commercial thoroughfare for Louisville was up and down Fourth Street. Now, Negro businesses had gone up as far as Sixth Street. And on either side of Sixth Street were two imposing buildings. One is still standing, called, the one that's still standing is Mammoth, uh, Life Insurance Company.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: Now, across the street was Domestic Insurance Company. And both of them were Negro businesses. And they were critical businesses, and they were doing a big business. And they were a credit, not only to the black community, but to, to, to the city, to have those two--

34:00

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --big establishments, right by Sixth and, and, and, and Walnut, two blocks away from the main thoroughfare.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: But the, uh, general understanding is, uh, no further.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: Okay, but, no further. Uh, the French have a, had a, had a term for it in, in World War I. Uh, blacks, black soldiers could go so far, but, so far, but, uh, no further. Sign would be put up. Huh!

FOSL: Oh, really!

JOHNSON: Uh-hm. But no further. Uh, "Ils ne passero---(??)--." [Editor's note: Ils ne passeront pas. They shall not pass.] Something like that.

FOSL: Hmm.

JOHNSON: That's, uh, you can go this far, but no farther.

FOSL: Wow.

JOHNSON: Yeah. Well, uh, those two, those establishments all along 35:00there created what we used to call, uh, Little Harlem.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And on Saturday nights, oh boy, they, the Negroes used, used, used to let their hair down. (Fosl laughs) They would, they would dress in their nice clothes and, and, and strut up and down, up and down the, the avenue--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --here and, and, drop in. And from, uh, after, after 5:30, uh, six o'clock in the evening, from then on until, oh, one or two o'clock, the little joints--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --would just be jumping.

And, uh, at that time, in order to le-, let black people know that they 36:00could go so far and no farther. If, if a black man was seen out there talking to a white girl--

FOSL: Um.

JOHNSON: --the police would rough up the white woman, but they would beat the hell out of a black man and say, "You let these white girls alone." Now, what made it more aggravating, yet, that o-, over here, going on out until Broadway, on Seventh Street, was the red-light district.

FOSL: Umph.

JOHNSON: And the white, or the black and the, the white girls wouldn't do service to the black men in the district.

FOSL: Humph.

JOHNSON: But they would gravitate sometimes over here into--

37:00

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --the Negro district. And, uh, some gullible Negro would say, "Oh, boy, I got me a white gal. Yeah, I'm gonna do it to her."--

FOSL: Humph.

JOHNSON: --And, uh, police, whenever they catch a, a, a white boy, I mean a white girl, and a black man walking down together, they would, they, they would beat the, beat the white, I mean, the black fellow up. Wouldn't take them to court!

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: Just beat him up, right there on, on the spot. Say, "Now, you, you let these white girls alone. Don't, don't even look at them. If you were down south, we'd lynch you. We're not gonna lynch you. We're just gonna beat the hell out of you." And then they'd rough up the girl and, and, and, uh--. Well, uh, Anne came down there to write up all that kind of stuff. And so I, after I'd, I'd gotten to, to a place where I was kind of, um, getting acquainted with her, and, and, and saw 38:00her sincerity. And, and she was just, I, I was afraid she was naive.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: I said, "Anne, for God's sake, stay away from down there because I don't want to see these bullies beat you up." She said, "I'm a reporter. And I write what--." I said, "Anne, they don't give a, these white police don't give a damn about your saying you're a reporter. If they catch you with a, with a, with a black man--. You act like talking to, to a black man, and uh, uh, writing up what you say is news. The reporter thinks you're out there hustling. I mean, pardon me, the, uh, police.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And, and, and they, they gonna, you are going to cause some, some honest, innocent Negro to be beat up, and you gonna get roughed up." I said, "Anne don't come down here." I said, "Come on, now, uh, uh, after, after six at night, stay away from down there." She says, 39:00"Lyman, I'm a reporter. And a reporter goes where the news is. And the news is down--, the, things don't start jumping down here in, in what you call Little Harlem, until about six or seven or eight at night. And, and I got to get the news." Well, then, she kept on doing it, and, and, uh, that helped to establish the, the, uh, I, I would say the hostility they had for her because she was so right in every-, everything she did was so precise and, and, and professional that, uh, they were, the powers that be, were just aggravated by her always winning out on technical points in, on--

40:00

[Pause in recording.]

JOHNSON: So she, she would, uh--

FOSL: So she'd kind of established herself and someone--

JOHNSON: --Yeah.

FOSL: -- to be reckoned with.

JOHNSON: Yeah. And, uh, finally, oh, nah, later, not finally, but later she comes to, married to Carl Braden.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And Carl Braden had already established himself as a, um, a gadfly. Uh, oh, he was, he, he was a soc-, I called him a socialist.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: But they, they called him a communist.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And they, they said, "My God, uh, now she has become contaminated with uh, uh, communism from this communist, Carl Braden."

FOSL: Umph.

JOHNSON: And, uh, both of them, uh, said, "Well, really, really, really, 41:00don't be afraid of us. Uh, don't, don't claim, don't, don't, don't label us as communists. We're just trying to be honest, uh, people who want to do, uh--

FOSL: The right thing.

JOHNSON: --the right thing.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And, and we started with the people furthest down. And they're the ones who need help. And we want to help them. Help them get, uh, better schools, and better housing, and, and better in, um, everything." And, uh, they said, "No, but you, you, you're a communist. You're a communist."

FOSL: Now, when you say "they," who do you mean, kind of?

JOHNSON: I mean, uh, anybody, anybody with a pale face.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Anybody white.

FOSL: So she was viewed quite differently in the black community, and Carl too.

JOHNSON: Well, well, you see, when they started, when, when they started 42:00putting the label of communism on them, then the blacks began to run from them, because n--, Negroes hav--, have had, had to use, had to be shrewd in eking out an existence in this country.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Don't aggravate the people who've got the money.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And the white folks got the money. And if, no matter how, no matter how well you stand among Negroes, if you don't stand fairly well with some white people who've got some money. Uh, the Negroes don't have money, they can't help you.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: In, in, in, in an economic world, broke people can't help you.

FOSL: Right!

JOHNSON: They are leeches to you. So, um, Negroes couldn't, couldn't, couldn't, couldn't help other Negroes to amount to anything. They had 43:00no, had no, no jobs, uh, uh, to, to offer you. If you got fired, if you'd work for a white person, and, and, and he said, "So you, you, you're associated with that Anne Braden bunch. You're fired." Well, now, what, what Negro, uh, uh, business is there that's going to--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: -- pick you up and give you a job? So you've got to be very careful. And, and if associating with Anne Braden, for instance, school teacher. White, all, all the members of the board of education, in, in my day, were white.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And you're a school teacher associating with Anne Braden? Okay, you, we'll, we'll find a reason to fire you.

FOSL: So your own response was kind of to pull back?

JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, yeah. Uh, everybody, everybody had to, e--, everybody, everybody in town, for economic reasons, had to be very cautious.

44:00

FOSL: And this was before the Wade case, even.

JOHNSON: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: So they had already--

JOHNSON: I remember, uh, I was president of the NAACP in 1949 and '50.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: That was before the Wade case.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And, uh, on my executive, I was president of a local branch.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And on my executive committee, I had six officers and twenty- four, uh, board, uh, board members.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: That made up my executive committee. One of those was Anne Braden. But when she began to be tagged as a communist, other members on my executive committee would come around behind her back, and said, "Lyman, get that woman off the board because they, she's going to hurt 45:00our standing--

FOSL: Umph.

JOHNSON: --outside of the NAACP." You see, after all, uh, the NAACP doesn't hire us. We just, we just work out of, out of, uh, uh, good will for the organization and for the cause. And, uh, it's, uh, it's free. It's gratis. Now, if, if, uh, one person was, uh, had a, had a fairly good job down, uh, maybe he was a, um, a worker. Now, I wouldn't say in those days, a branch vice president of one of the banks. But if he worked for, for a bank down there as a supervisor of the maintenance bunch,--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --which, which, uh, relatively speaking, was, uh, good paying, 46:00if not much prestige attached to it. And the boss man said, "Uh, Joe, do you, uh, do you-- do you know Anne Braden? Do you, we understand you and, you and Anne are, are, are, you and Anne and Carl are--. Well, you better get you another job, Joe." Well, now, these people said, "Now, Lyman, now, we, we can help you run, as long as you run a Negro protest movement, we're with you. But we're not going to have our jobs in jeopardy because the boss man at the place where we work assumes that Anne and Carl are telling the NAACP how to run civil rights.

FOSL: Umph.

JOHNSON: And, and, and therefore, all of us would get fired. No, now get her off the board." And I remember saying, I'll tell you, now that 47:00she stayed on as long I was president. And then, uh, I was on for, I was president for two years. I think maybe in, maybe about nineteen--I was president in '49 or '50-- maybe '51 or '52 I was still on the board, but not president.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And, uh, someone came in with the resolution that, uh, we ask, uh, Anne Braden to, uh, just, uh, withdrawal from membership on the board because she was beginning, becoming too much of a, of a weight, uh, on, on, on the influence of the organization.

FOSL: Um.

JOHNSON: And I torpedoed that, in the resolution by saying, "Um, if this 48:00passes, if this passes, uh, count me out. Count me out. I, I go, uh, not with her, but, I, I, I will resign from the board. I will not be on the board. If you, if you put her off, then you're putting, then you, you will force me to, to, uh, resign."

FOSL: Was this kind of a first amendment position you were taking? I mean, you know, freedom of association and--

JOHNSON: Um-hm. Um-hm.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: I said, "You're not going to, you're, this woman is, is purely honest in what she is doing. And, uh, they're, they're persecuting her, and I'm not going to be a party to the NAACP adding to the persecution of this woman." I said, "Now, count me out." I said, "Shame on you if you're not willing to stand up. The woman is doing a good job, and, in her way." And, uh, they, uh, dropped the whole thing. And 49:00maybe, privately, they said, "Anne, why don't you quit." Something like that. And--

FOSL: And they did eventually get her off the board.

JOHNSON: Yeah.

FOSL: I don't know how mu--, I think it was after the Wade case.

JOHNSON: I, I think, I think they, uh, at the next election, they just didn't re-elect her.

FOSL: Um-hm. Hmm.

JOHNSON: I think something like that.

FOSL: Well, were there others who supported her, as you did?

JOHNSON: Well, uh, after--, after I spoke up, they, those who supported me--, and I can't recall it a better way, but those who supported me just sort showed a little support to her.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: You get the idea?

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: It, it, it just kind of trickled over to her. Uh, they, they, too, kind of wished she would, would, would quit. Uh, there's a woman, there's a white woman, right here in the South, very, uh, prominent 50:00person, who just recently said, "Lyman, I just hate Anne Braden."

FOSL: Really!

JOHNSON: I said, "Why?" She said, "We were about to elect the first woman, no, not the first woman, but a woman to the board of education. And she was just ab--, um, this was all white folk, you see?

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: They were go--, a committee was going to, uh, uh, elect a very, very prominent white person, white woman, who could have been quite an asset to any board, and especially a board of education.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And Anne jumped on the committee, jumped, jumped into the 51:00movement to elect this woman to the board of education, and campaigned harder than even the committee that had started to put her in. And, then they just n--, took a nose dive. Her, her campaign just, just flopped right there.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Uh, people said, "No, indeed." We, we, they, they just spoke openly. "We will not elect this woman because--"

FOSL: Anne Braden supports her. That's ridiculous, isn't it?

JOHNSON: And so this, this woman, just, just, just, uh, oh, I guess about two weeks ago, no, about, uh, a month ago, said, "I just, Anne kept us from electing th--, that real good woman to the board of education."

52:00

FOSL: Huh. Wow. It is amazing how much her, uh, this kind of tarring of her, tarring and feathering, has continued, you know.

JOHNSON: Uh, recently, they're beginning to do her like they're, they're doing me.

FOSL: Right. Lionize, yeah.

JOHNSON: Yeah. You see, uh--

FOSL: But she still has a lot of enemies--

JOHNSON: Oh, she's got, her, her situation is worse than mine.

FOSL: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

JOHNSON: Uh, here's what, here's what, uh, a mayor said. Two Negro teachers, two Negro men teachers, and two white men teachers--

53:00

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: -- and one white woman teacher made a committee of five to go down there and argue with the mayor, at that time. The mayor, the, the Board of Alderman, would appropriate so much money and give it to the board of education.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And the board of education would run the school system. Now, uh, it, it's, uh, you know, the, uh, board of education can pas-, uh, control its own taxing, uh, business. But then, uh, it was just an appropriation from the city.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And the city ran one tax. And, and, uh, this committee of five, now, urging the mayor to urge the Board of Alderman to increase the appropriation for the public schools so that, um, the, the teachers 54:00could get, um, uh, better pay.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: Better pay. They were getting, I think at the time, I, I think I was getting about five thousand dollars a year. And, uh, that just wasn't keeping up with the, uh, with the, uh, index--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --of a, the commodities, the prices. So, uh, I remember this mayor said to the woman, "Uh, miss." Now, we all got down there at the same time, all five of us. We sort of were breaking code, breaking the, the policy. Uh, we two Negroes should have gone down there, and these three white people should have gone down there separately.

FOSL: I see. Now, what, what year was this? Probably.

55:00

JOHNSON: Probably, uh, I guess about, uh, '48.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Forty-eight or '49. Forty-eight, I guess.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And, um, we all got down there. And we said we wouldn't be told ----------(??) out at the office, uh, ----------(??) town office that, uh--. Uh, we had an appointment with mayor. She said, "Uh, yes indeed. Uh, your, your appointment is at, uh, um, 3:30. It's now 3:25. Uh, he is in the office. Uh, he's, he's waiting for you, but, uh, uh, we, we, I'll, I'll, I'll take you in, in, in, in a minute or two." And, uh, at, uh, 19--, uh, I mean, about three--3:29 p.m., she 56:00says, "Well, uh, we can walk in now." So she opened the door. And the mayor was seated at his end of a big, big table there.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And, uh, the lady sort of, um, m--, motioned, uh, to, to us, uh, seats. So the white woman took a seat here at the end of the table, just opposite to him. And, uh, we two Negroes, uh, sat on the side, two black men sat over there. And the mayor listened to one of the white men say something about, uh, why we were there. And then, the other Negro, other than myself, the other Negro, came on with the 57:00real crux of the meeting.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: We want more money.

FOLS: Right.

JOHNSON: So, uh, the mayor stood up and said, uh, "Miss," talking to the lady down at the end of the table, "you step outside. I want to tell these men something that, that, but, uh, but what I want to say won't be appropriate for, for you to hear,--

FOSL: Umph.

JOHNSON: --hear. So you just step, you just step back out there in the, in the outer office. Uh, we'll be through here in a few minutes." And she said, "But I'm a part of it." He said, "Miss, for you to go out. I don't want to put you out, now, but you go out." And so she got up and walked out.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And then he turned to these two white men and said, "Now, you son-of-a-bitches. Why in the hell don't you go out and get you 58:00a job where you can make some money." He said, "Don't you know school teaching is no, no, no place for a man who's got any good common sense? You can't make any money teaching school. That's for people who are, who are cowards, who, who, who can't stand on their own. If you were first-rate men, you'd go out and get you--

FOSL: Wow!

JOHNSON: -- get you a job. And school teaching is just for those who can't make it in, in the business world." And then he looked over to us. He says, "Now, these two men. I sympathize with them. I don't blame them for coming down here. There is nothing else for them to do but teach school. So, uh, you men, I, I, I, I, pl--, you, you ought to complain. You ought to complain at what we're paying you. But these 59:00men over here, these are white men. And white men, uh, uh, they, uh, they're no--, they're nothing if they stopped, if they stoop to school teaching."

FOSL: Wow.

JOHNSON: Now, I, uh, another, another case, something like that, is, um, when a superintendant had the white teachers to meet on one day, and then the black teachers meet on another day, when he had a city-wide, um, project to put before the teachers.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: Uh, at the close of one day, one, one, one of the white sessions, he said, "And I want to say something else to you people. 60:00Now, some of you have been up here griping about this and griping about that, and, and, and you don't like the conditions that are, uh, prevailing around here. And, and, uh, uh, let me tell you. Now, uh, the black, uh, teachers--." They called them Negroes in those days. "Negro teachers are making a terrible complaint, and they have quite a bit of justification." He says--. Now, this is what, this, this is almost a direct quotation. He says, "Hell, if I were, uh, were, were, were a Negro teacher, I'd be raising more hell than they are raising.--

FOSL: Hmm.

JOHNSON: --But you are white. And I don't want to hear a single one of you griping anymore. If you don't, if you don't want to teach school, get the hell out. Just, just turn in your re--, uh, your, your, your resignation right now because I don't want to hear you. You're white. 61:00Now, they, the, the, the, those poor fellows. Those poor people. Uh, if, if I were black, I would, I would, I would be fighting just as hard as they are--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --but, but you, you're white, so what are you griping about? Just get on in there and, and, and, and do what we tell you to do, and keep your damn trap closed."

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Now, one, one white teacher, one woman teacher told me, says, "Lyman, he talks me-, meaner to us than he does to you folks. See, he, he wouldn't let you know it, but he, he says, "You're white." She says, "And when we begin to agree with him, then we're lost."

FOSL: Uh-hm. Well, getting back to this question of Anne for a minute, what, what position did you take when the Wade case happened? What, what was the response of the black community, in general, would you say? I mean, it was--

62:00

JOHNSON: Yeah, we--

FOSL: -- quite a time, and I'm not--

JOHNSON: We, we, we, we, a, as a group, sympathized with the way white people were treating the Wades, I mean, the, uh, pardon me, the, the Bradens. Here the Bradens were doing what we gave them credit of, of honestly trying to help, uh, improve the condition of black people. Uh, we, we gave them credit for being honest and sincere in trying to do it. And we sympathized with them. But, we, as I've already explained,--

FOLS: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: -- the more they, more the way, I mean, more the Bradens did along this line, the more they kindled the fire of opposition to them--

63:00

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --as, as, as, as being, uh, communists.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And, and, and, and don't forget, now, did you ever hear of a man, uh, that senator from, uh, uh, Wisconsin?

FOSL: McCarthy.

JOHNSON: McCarthy. He was a terror.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And every, even the university professors all across the country were afraid to talk anything--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --anything that looked like socialism in the classes.

FOSL: Um. Or democracy, for that matter.

JOHNSON: Yeah. And, and, uh, now, Bradens, both of them, were not only talking socialism, but trying to implement it.

FOSL: Right. (laughs)

JOHNSON: And, and anybody who, who got too close to them, who, uh, endangered his job.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Now, that's, now, that's the way the black community looked 64:00at it. Here we are. We'd like, we'd like to, to, to, to, to help the Bradens, but, uh, but we've got to be cautious. Now, some of us, when they threatened to blow up the house down there, several of us took it on ourselves to go down and guard the house. I was one of them.

FOSL: Oh, you were?

JOHNSON: Yeah. Um, the day that it was bombed, um, I was down there from, uh, I think, I think my shift was from six--from 5:30 until nine.

FOSL: PM?

JOHNSON: PM. And, uh, I think there were two of us down there at that time. And there was another bunch that came in at nine, and I think there were three in that bunch. And they were to take on until twelve.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And then another bunch come in. And so we, we kind of organized 65:00so that, uh, no one of us would have to spend all the time down there.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And, uh, we, we went down there, and we, we called ourselves, uh, guarding the house. Now, the, the man had, uh, Wade, had, had, had, uh, begun to furnish the place off with his, uh, living, uh, uh, you know, uh, his, his furniture.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: But, uh, his wife, uh, just decided that, no, she would take the children and stay with her mother or stay s-, somewhere--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --uh, until, uh, this, this hysteria, uh, blew by. But there was the house, and there was the furniture that had to be protected. So, uh, I can remember that, uh, several of us, uh, went down. And, 66:00and, uh, the night that I was down there from, I was on the inside of the house, most of the time, from six to nine. But, um, there were about five cars with Negroes in them, uh, out there in the street.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Just parked right in front of the house.

FOSL: Well, do you believe, or did y-, do you think any of the black community believed, indeed, that the Bradens had had anything to do with the bombing?

JOHNSON: No, no, no. We, we--

FOSL: I mean, they saw through that.

JOHNSON: We, we, we are, we are almost, we are, we, we are almost, uh, convinced that the, uh, that the city government and the county government, state police, the whole, the whole, uh, law enforcement, reneged on, on, on, on, on, on the whole business. Because we are convinced that those, uh, thugs down there are the ones that, uh, did 67:00the damage.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: We are, we are convinced of that. But, uh, uh, it was, we, we, we are convinced that they white-washed the thing so as to end up, uh, with the Bradens being, uh, responsible.

FOSL: Well--

JOHNSON: Nah, nah, nah. Non--, none, none of us black people believed the Bradens had anything to do with it.

FOSL: I didn't think so. I just wanted to ask you that, though. But I, I wonder, like over time, okay, as a historian yourself, what w--, how would you place Anne Braden in Louisville's history? How would you characterize her roles, both good and bad, her contributions?

JOHNSON: I would say that she was a valuable asset in not being 68:00intimidated to play--, to, to kick in.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: She believed, I would, I, I would, I would, I would characterize, categorize, her philosophy as pure socialism.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: I don't think there's any cynicalism in her. I don't think there's any terror issue in her. But I do think she was a crusader for what Christian people like to think of, uh, uh, of the principles and 69:00teachings of Jesus Christ. And, uh, fundamentally, of that, I think, is the basis of socialism in itself.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: Uh, they, they used to accuse me, uh, at the board of education of being a communist, or a communist sympathizer. Or maybe, "Poor, poor, poor Mr. Johnson, he, he's a--

FOSL: A dupe?

JOHNSON: --he's a dupe.

FOSL: (laughs) Yeah.

JOHNSON: Yeah, they, they, they, they said that I was just being used. Said I was naive. They said with all the training the man's got, he, he's gone overboard, and, and, and, and he's just a naive. "Tho--, those people, those people are using him. And they, they can't come in a classroom and, and, and teach one class right after another, and another class, and another class, and another year, and another bunch, and another bunch. Uh, just, uh, that's, that's the infiltration of, 70:00of, of, a communist into the school system. Now-- now, Johnson's got a job in the school system. Now, we got to watch him, and be sure we will, we, um, see that, see, uh, that he doesn't teach what the Bradens tell him to teach."

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: See? Well, uh, when they'd get after me, say, "Mr. Johnson, can't you just--." They would dress me down there at a, at a board meeting, right in front of the press and in front of the, uh, visitors to the, uh, board meeting. "Mr. Johnson, can't you see? Can't you see that they're just using you? Now, that's the, that's the communist line. That, uh, that's, that's the Stalinist. Uh, that's the, uh, Leninist, uh, that's the whole works. Well, you, can't you see that, 71:00with all the training you have? Uh, don't, don't, don't, don't you s--?" I said, "Gentlemen, gentlemen. You accuse me of either being a communist, or being a, uh, sympathizer, or, or, or a fellow traveler, or, or a dupe of the communists." I said, "But, uh, I, I don't look at it like that." And then I looked over at the superintendent, and I said, "Mr. Superintendent, uh, I, I, I understand you're a member of the Presbyterian Church, aren't you?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Now, I've heard, I've heard your Presbyterian preacher preach what Jesus Christ said. And that is, "In as much as you do these things unto the least of these, my little ones, you do it unto me."

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: I said, "Now, what's wrong with me trying my best to upgrade 72:00the condition of the least people in the community?" I said, "That's, that's, no, no, no. You, you're wrong, now, when you call me communist. That's just Christianity."

FOSL: Umph.

JOHNSON: I said, "I'm just putting Christianity, I'm putting to, to, to--." And I looked over to the president. I picked out his church. And I said--. I, I'd already done my homework.

FOSL: Umm.

JOHNSON: I, I said, "O-, over here in the Methodist church, they teach the same thing.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: "Go feed, feed my lambs.

FOSL: Humph.

JOHNSON: Go, um." And then, uh, I, I said, "Did you ever hear of what they call the Beatitudes? Well, that's all socialism is."

FOSL: Well, did you, uh, continue to work with Anne after that case? I mean, were, was she, would you say she was very ostracized in Louisville?

JOHNSON: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. She was ostracized. Uh--

FOSL: And how did that--

JOHNSON: --uh, people, people, the, the, the people upstanding in 73:00committee--. Remember, now, don't forget, we, we, we just addressed off the, the, the senator from Wisconsin, McCarthy.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: Without, without even mentioning Carl Braden. If you said anything--, let me see, what was it? There was one textbook I was using down there at the school. I think it was Magruder's Government.

FOSL: Oh, yeah. And the Nation magazine was banned in Louisville schools. Banned in Louisville.

JOHNSON: That, uh, book was, was one of the best books that, uh, that had, had, had been presented and used in the school system here in Louisville. But one edition of the, of the thing came out and said, "We don't know exactly what sort of changes are going to be made--(Fosl 74:00laughs)--but we do know that whatever will be, in the future, will be of a socialist nature."

FOSL: Ah!

JOHNSON: And, uh, the board of education voted to scrap that, uh, can't use that book any longer. That's communism. They, they used the word socialist instead of saying communism.

FOSL: Right. Well, now I just have one more question for you, and then--

JOHNSON: Yeah.

FOSL: -- I'll probably need to get going, uh, myself. But what do you, how did this kind of wear off? I mean, how did Anne, you know what I mean? How did she become sort of integrated back into the community of, of activists in Louisville? Or was she ever really totally apart from it?

JOHNSON: Uh, she has not yet, uh, overcome the taint of, uh, being 75:00dubbed a communist. Now, they think that, uh, they, they think that they were correct in labeling Carl a communist.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And she was just a loyal housewife--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --who, uh, whatever, whatever Carl chooses or decides, uh, she will support him in it.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And, therefore, to that extent, you, she was, uh, a communist sympathizer.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: He was communist, and, and she was, she was a bedroom sympathizer--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --without saying she was a communist.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And, uh, she'll never live that down. On the other hand, uh, 76:00time has softened--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: -- the situation. And we haven't, in all the years that have passed since 195O, whatever that was--

FOSL: Four.

JOHNSON: '54?

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: All the time, that would be almost forty--

FOSL: Almost thirty-sev--, almost thirty-seven, right at thirty-seven years today.

JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah. Umm-, forty-seven.

FOSL: No, thirty-seven, because I was born in '54, and I'm thirty-six, soon be thirty-seven.

JOHNSON: Okay. All the years passed by, and they haven't found her guilty of setting a bomb at any public building. She has not sold any secrets to the enemy. (both laugh) No, no, uh, what is that, pumpkin papers?

FOSL: Yeah.

JOHNSON: Uh, she has, they haven't found anything on her. Uh, she 77:00has not yet, she has not yet been actually proven guilty of being a communist.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: And so now, the thing kind of smoothed out to the place that now, they are beginning to say, we've needed somebody like that to goad us into recognizing what our responsibilities are. And we are coming around. Uh, and they haven't quite come around to the same place that, uh, that they have with me.

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: You see, now, I, I went up there raised hell at the University of Kentucky, won my case, went to school up there. Thugs would burn crosses on the campus there to fr--, frighten me away. I didn't, didn't, didn't, didn't, didn't pay them any attention. Just walked right on through them and everything. And, uh, after me, thirty, 78:00thirty students went in with me that summer, thirty Negro students that first summer, and Negro students have been up there, uh, going to school ever since. Um, I guess, two hundred, three hundred, maybe five hundred black students going to school up there now.

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: And it's, it's a, it's an established right. Uh, 1949, th--, this is what the Courier Journal said in an editorial: "It is commendable that the University of Kentucky, that was so gravely humiliated in 1949, now, thirty years later, to the day--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --calls up the man at whose hands the humiliation was dished 79:00out, Lyman Johnson--

FOSL: Um-hm.

JOHNSON: --and gives him, offers, offers to give him an honorary doctor of letters degree--

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: --on the strength of what he did back there thirty years ago." Said, "It is commendable that the university has come around to recognize what was at stake, and will give the gentleman an honorary degree on the basis of that. And it is just as commendable that Mr. Johnson, who holds no grudges against the University, will accept it. We commend both."

FOSL: Hmm. Hmm.

JOHNSON: Now, that's, that's sort of what, uh, what I think is, uh, h-, h-, has come to me.

Now, if you notice, all, all of these things were my idea. Uh, I have lived long enough to, to see them come around. To say, "Lyman, you're 80:00somebody."

FOSL: Right.

JOHNSON: "You are somebody. But they haven't, haven't quite, haven't quite done that for Anne."

FOSL: It's just starting.

JOHNSON: It's, it's beginning. It's only, only socialist-inclined people--

[End of interview.]

Search This Transcript
SearchClear