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Anne Braden, Educator and Social Activist

Although small in stature, activist and educator Anne Braden was a giant in the fight for civil rights.

April 2009 marks the third anniversary of her death and we honor her life, in Et Cetera.

Anne Braden, archival photo Born Anne McCarty in Louisville, she grew up in Alabama. Her experiences with racism in the deep south helped shape her life’s work.

In 1948, after a year of reporting for the Louisville Times, Anne married fellow journalist Carl Braden, who shared her passion for social issues.

In 1954 the couple purchased a house for an African American family in an all-white Shively neighborhood. The controversy led to the Bradens being brought up on sedition charges – and Carl was jailed.

Anne wrote about the infamous case in her 1958 memoir The Wall Between.

Undaunted by their opponents, the Bradens continued their work. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., even lauded Anne Braden in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Anne Braden with Professor Cornel West in 2005, photo courtesy of Sonia deVries In more than five decades, Anne’s work included helping to desegregate Jefferson County Public Schools, founding the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression, and teaching at the University of Louisville.

Anne Braden died in 2006, at age 81, but The Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research at UofL continues her legacy.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond at the 2007 grand opening of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research The Institute, which opened in 2007, houses more than 3,000 books that the Bradens collected in their work. Its mission is to bridge the gap between academic research and community activism for social justice.

Etc.:

  • The Shively house the Bradens bought for the Wade family in 1954 was subsequently bombed. Luckily, no one was hurt. The Wades moved away shortly thereafter.
  • Anne Braden taught classes on civil rights and social justice history at UofL and Northern Kentucky University.
  • NAACP Chairman Julian Bond was a long-time friend and coworker of Anne Braden. He was a student activist and a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s. Mr. Bond delivered the first annual Anne Braden Memorial Lecture at the grand opening ceremony of The Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, April 4, 2007.
  • In 1967, after trying to protest strip mining, the Bradens faced sedition charges again– this time in Pike County, Ky. The couple was accused of being communist, but the charges were declared unconstitutional before they ever went to trial.
  • Carl Braden was born in New Albany, Ind. He died in 1975. The Carl Braden Memorial Center, located on Louisville’s West Broadway, is the headquarters of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist & Political Oppression.

To learn more about the Bradens and other leaders in Kentucky’s Civil Rights Movement, check out the documentary Living the Story.

Program 317
Louisville Life meets the Muhammad Ali Center's first artist-in-residence, profiles prominent civil rights legend Anne Braden, visits a popular vintage shop and the city's top cheerleading and dance training center. (#317)