You are browsing the archive for Anne Braden.

Mapping neighborhood diversity over time and segregation in Louisville

February 17, 2011 in Research methods

Go to, click on the drop down list under the middle map and choose Louisville to study the change in population trends there from 1990 to 2000.  You can see how some parts of Louisville’s African-American and White communities have changed from very low diversity to a more mixed area.  Also, African-American households have grown in some areas that were nearly all White a decade before. 

This site was created by geographers at the University of Georgia, the University of Washington, and Dartmouth College. The primary individuals involved are Steven Holloway and Michael Wellman (Georgia), Mark Ellis (Washington), and Richard Wright and Jonathan Chipman (Dartmouth).  They use federal census data and overlay it with mapping software (ESRI GIS) to display using Google Maps to create a rich, interactive environment for us to discuss.

The Louisville neighborhoods undergoing rapid change in one decade include Smoketown (dicussed in Rhonda Mawhood Lee’s article, “‘Admit Guilt—And Tell the Truth’: The Louisville Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Struggle with Pacifism and Racial Justice, 1941-1945,” J of Southern History 76 [May 2010], 315-342) and Shively (the post-WWII racism and Red Scare in this area is an important focus of Catherine Fosl’s biography, Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South). I wonder what Anne Braden would have thought of these changes today!

** See also Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky by Catherine Fosl and Tracy E. K’Meyer **

Courage Under Fire

November 7, 2010 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Oral history, Political history, Social history

Anne Braden, KET bio

Anne Braden, 1999

The more one examines the life of Anne Braden, the more one realizes how strong a resolve she possessed. Without the proverbial “dog in the fight” she embarked on a mission for social equality for blacks, when, as a southern white women she had nothing to gain by doing so. Her journey began in 1945 as a young liberal reporter for the “Anniston star” a newspaper in Birmingham AL. She would confess though that the true turning point for her was what became know as the “Truman Doctrine” in 1947.

Knowing that there were things like the “Loyalty Oaths”“Red Scare” and the dreaded “HUAC” to contend with, she persevered. She and her husband and any group or organization they were associated with were constantly under the surveillance by the authorities. She was indicted for sedition in 1954 while she and her husband Carl had two (2) toddlers. Her husband was convicted and sentence to 15 years that same year. She was arrested on numerous occasions. One of her last arrests was at 72yrs old in 1996 for protesting the lack of hiring of minorities in professional golf.

One of her daughters died at the age of ten (10). Her husband passed away in 1975, eleven (11) years after the death of her second born. She continued her work to bring about racial equality for another thirty (30) years before passing away in 2006. Why would someone who had so much to lose, especially in the 50’s & 60’s, continue to fight for the rights of others?


See the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research,

Virginia Durr and her work with Anne Braden

October 26, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Historical Decades, Historiography, Intellectual history, Political history, Social history

Virginia and Clifford Durr
Virginia and Clifford Durr, courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Archives

Virginia Durr was born into a white, privileged family and received her education from a small college in the northeast United States.  So how did someone such as herself become an active leader against segregation and racism in the south?

She was born in Birmingham, Alabama and moved back there after college.  There she met her husband as well but they moved to Washington, D.C. and became inspired by the New Deal.  In didn’t take long for Durr to become aquainted to her new home as she joined the Women’s National Democratic Club and worked with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to get the poll tax abolished.  Ms. Durr also ran for Senate in the state of Virginia and was one of the founding members of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW).

Her Kentucky ties lie within her friendship with Anne Braden, a southern white female activist for civil rights.  Ms. Durr became friends with Braden after Braden had learned through Durr of a 1958 group of white Montgomery churchwomen who had arranged an interracial meeting but were forced to stop due to the harrassment they received.  The women were subjected to obscene phone calls, denounced as being part of the “communist-jewish conspiracy”, and ostricsized by their own family members.

Both Durr and Braden knew the importance of instilling confidence in the few that went against white racism at the time and began to work together.  It’s intereting how both Durr and Braden found each other and poses the question: did their partnership reflect their southern upbringing? Or did it pertain more to the fact that they shared similar motives and ideals?  Or were these ideals reinforced from their southern upbringing?  wiki group. 13 October 2010.  26 October 2010.

Fosl, Catherine.  Subversive Southerner.  University Press of Kentucky.  Lexington, KY 2002.

by Syle

A Successful Activist: Ella Baker

October 14, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

Ella Baker was a very prominent and successful leader. She was part of many important groups and worked along side many of the biggest names during the civil rights era. Her grandmother was a slave, and growing up she would listen to stories of slave revolts. She graduated college from Shaw University, as the valedictorian of her class. Afterwards she went on to do great things as an activist and became a great leader.

Ella Baker was part of many well known groups that were essential to the Civil Rights movement. She did much of her work behind the scenes and was even responsible for some of these groups starting in the first place. She started her work with teh NAACP and spent much of her life working with them. Much more noteworthy however, she was part of the reason the Southern Christian Leadership Conference even began. She became the first staffmember for the SCLC and was so for long time. While working with the SCLC she worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King who was the first president of the organization. During her career she also helped jumpstart the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and began working with them for many years.

Ella Baker was a very important woman for the Civil Rights Movement, even though she did much of her work behind the scenes. Starting these organizations shows the kind of leader she was and her desire to make things equal. She worked with many people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, W.E.B. Dubois, and Anne Braden. But has also been noted as being a mentor for other people such as Rosa Parks. Ella Baker was an amazing woman with a lot of drive and was a very key part of the Civil Rights Movement.

by Measha

Anne Braden

October 11, 2010 in 1960s-1970s

In a time when integration was not widely accepted, you have people who stood up for African American rights like Anne Braden. Her story is an interesting one; she came from the class privilege, but was a Civil Rights Activist for African Americans. Just from reading the very beginning chapters of her biography by Catherine Fosl (Subversive Southerner) you can see how the Bradens bought a home for an African American family and were put on trial for being seen as communists. Many people would possibly give up due to the fact that they are facing adversity, but among adversity Anne Braden still worked to help African Americans which was very uncommon at the time and especially as she was a southern white women. Her life was made, but people like her who went out of there who embraced integration, and did not feel that is was justifiable to treat African Americans as inhuman are very courageous and very interesting people to read about.

by bmwexl2

House Un-American Activities Committee

October 8, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, Political history

The House Un-American Activities Committee, or (HUAC) is defined by as “an investigative committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Originally created in 1938 to inquire into subversive activities in the U.S., it was reestablished in 1945 as the Committee on Un-American Activities, renamed in 1969 as the Committee on Internal Security, and abolished in 1975.” This Committee seems to hold a lot of weight during the civil rights movement on arresting and prosecuting activists. In Catherine Fosl’s book on Anne Braden titled Subversive Southerner, the HUAC comes up a number of times. In fact, Anne and her husband were pegged by the Committee as Communists and in 1954 a sedition charge with a result of jailtime.

Fosl writes, “But even at the grassroots level, reformers were no strangers to repression and to being called “communists,” especially in the South, where the Southern Conference faced its most serious assault yet. That may, HUAC issued a report damning the Southern Conference as a “Communist front” advancing not human welfare but the aims of the Communist Party (CP).” [citation needed here!] 

From reading about this Committee it is made apparent that the claims of communism among southern activists is for the most part false. Although there were CP member cells in the South to incite racial violence; was this committee set up just for this purpose, to deface and slander the name of good Americans?

Overall I feel that it is somewhat unclear whether the Committee was truly a way to seek out communist wrongdoers or a platform to just point the finger and cry wolf on people who were stirring the pot, and fighting for what they believe.

Fosl, Catherine. Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2006. Print.

by Mary

Anne Braden: an advocate for change

October 1, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, Social history

Anne Braden was born in Louisville, Ky in 1924 but spent most of her childhood in Mississippi and Alabama.  She attended the Randolph-Macon Woman’s college and returned to Kentucky in 1947.  Her occupation at first was reporting for courthouse trials but then took a deeper approach at the injustices and behind the scenes of the courtroom.  She became outraged toward the inequality of African Americans in the court system.  Anne and her husband decided they wanted to advocate for African Americans and be a part of the freedom movement.

Anne worked with the Southern Conference Educational Fund from 1957 to 1973.  This was an interracial organization that was across the South with a mission to bring whites into the civil rights movement.  The SCEF was victim to multiple attacks and most white southerners resented this coalition.  This group has been accredited with the dissolution of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1975.

Anne was very passionate about helping to overthrow the injustices and inequalities toward African Americans and I think that is an extremely admirable trait considering how dangerous it was during that time to be an advocate of change in the South.  The most famous act of lashing out against the system and showing they wouldn’t stand for these injustices was when the Bradens, in 1954, purchased a house in an all white neightborhood for an African American family.  When the family moved in they were victims of white supremacy and intimidation by burning crosses and setting off bombs in their yard and house.  Anne’s husband was charged with sedition for purchasing the home and was sentenced to 15 years in prison but only served 8 months and was let out on the highest bond ever set in Kentucky. 

Anne also wrote a book in the 1950s about her experiences during this time (The Wall Between) talking about the cruel acts towards African Americans during this time that I think would be a good book for our class to look at. See a book review of the second edition of The Wall Between in the back issue of the PeaceWorks Magazine online at

by bmwexl2

The Faces Behind the History

September 24, 2010 in 1940s-1950s, Social history

When reading about activism in the 1940s and 50s, or history in general, I tend to focus on comprehension of facts almost in a cold un-sensitive way. I find myself looking at the big picture of what was going on at this time; and not truly immersing myself in the background and asking questions about each individual it took to shape our history. If you were to look back and tell the story of your own life, you would tell of individuals who have helped you; pushed you to do great, and those who have stood in your way. I have recently had an epiphany that to dig deeper and truly understand what was going on, you must not only look at what your subject did to affect history now 60 years later, but think in terms of those immediate people affected at that time. While reading about Anne Braden, a civil rights activist, an issue is brought up about the impact her activism had on her children.
Going through a normal history book you wouldn’t necessarily hear about the impact that one’s life work has on their family or the people around them. You read what this person did and then ultimately move on to the next figure. But, how do you truly understand someone’s history while overlooking something as important to them as their own children.

Braden was an amazing figure that made it her goal to help end racism and segregation. She fought hard for what she believed was right, and it seemed that her children were also paying for this fight. In an excerpt from the KET Bookclub television show transcript of Braden discussing her book, The Wall Between, Wilma Jonathan says, “it has taken a toll on her family. But I suppose somebody has to do that to get movements … you know, to be part of a movement.” We can pull from this that when Braden began her fight to end racism she did not enter alone. Indeed her and her husbands work of activism is a lifetime struggle, a struggle that cannot be shut off when it is time to come home and be with family. It was an exhausting battle that I’m sure changed the lives of many children of civil rights activists. Catherine Fosl, the author of Subversive Southerner speaks of Braden’s relationship with her children, “Anne’s children quite literally grew up with the civil rights movement. When they became parents, Anne and Carl had no way of knowing just how intricately their children’s upbringing would be entwined with their own activism and with the social movements that erupted from the efforts of others like them. Anne embraced motherhood with the same exuberance she brought to all life’s challenges. Yet she developed a confidence and comfort level in her work as a writer and activist that she never entirely found as a mother.”
From these texts we are able to look a little bit deeper into the life of Anne Braden, not just for what she did on paper, but what it took to get there. A thought that maybe subconsciously to Anne the anti-racist movement was like a child to her, it was what she knew, it was her baby.

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