Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
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Lyman JohnsonLyman T. Johnson

Lyman Tefft Johnson is best known as the plaintiff whose successful legal challenge opened the University of Kentucky to African-American students in 1949. But by the time of that lawsuit, he had already been teaching at Louisville's Central High School for 16 years, having earned a master's degree in history from the University of Michigan in 1931. He was also a local leader in the fight to equalize the pay of black and white teachers.

Johnson continued teaching at Central until 1966, then spent another seven years in the Jefferson County Public Schools as an assistant principal at several schools. Along the way, he continued his civil rights work, leading efforts to integrate neighborhoods, swimming pools, schools, and restaurants. Always outspoken in denouncing discrimination, Johnson headed the Louisville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for six years. Lyman T. Johnson Middle School in Louisville was named in his honor in 1980.

Born in 1906 in Columbia, Tennessee, Johnson was the grandson of former slaves. He died in Louisville in 1997.

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