Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
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John JohnsonJohn Jay Johnson

At age 17, John Johnson became the youngest president of any Kentucky chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, having already been involved in the NAACP Youth Council and in student government in Simpson County. Under his leadership, the Franklin chapter convinced town leaders not to hire the former police chief of Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three young civil rights workers had been murdered.

After high school, Johnson worked in a factory in his small rural community, but soon joined organizations seeking to improve social conditions, including the Kentucky Institute on Human Development and various War on Poverty programs. After serving as assistant director of the Louisville Human Rights Commission, Johnson became director of community services for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. As state president of the NAACP for 14 years, he traveled around Kentucky organizing chapters and advocating for women's rights and welfare reform. He also chaired the planning committee for a national NAACP convention held in Louisville.

Johnson served as director of the Louisville and Jefferson County Community Action Agency in 1984 before moving to Baltimore to join the national staff of the NAACP. John Johnson Street in his hometown of Franklin is named for him.

Living the Story > Biographies > John Jay Johnson