Anne Braden was an activist for the vast majority of her life. She was a defender of equal rights for all, and a staunch advocate for the progression of the world. She was born into a system she did not agree with or support, but her childhood in Anniston, Alabama would later motivate much of her work in communities across the South. She used her talents for writing and speaking to motivate others to action, and call them to defend what she knew in her heart to be right.
Through her journalism, protests, and positions in organizations such as SCEF, Anne Braden helped influence the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky and across the south. Anne had a unique perspective on Civil Rights. She was not one of the oppressed. She was born a privileged white woman in a society that honored her class and race. This unique perspective allowed Anne to influence the white community to stand up for the oppressed. Anne knew that the society she lived in was flawed and she would not stand for it.
One of her first causes began in 1948 when Anne and Carl became part of the Wallace Campaign for President with the Progressive Party. After his defeat, they both worked on the labor movement. As this movement cooled down, the civil rights movement took off and Carl and Anne were quick to join the cause.
Anne led a hospital desegregation drive in Kentucky in 1950, and from then on she never stopped fighting for the basic rights of humanity. In 1951, Anne led a group of southern, white women to a protest in Mississippi against the execution of Willie McGee, who had been convicted of the rape of a white woman. This was the time at which Anne made the infamously bold statement in response to a police officer calling her an outsider that she was, in fact, a southerner and very much ashamed of where she grew up.
In 1954, Carl and Anne purchased a house in a white, suburban neighborhood for a family they knew named Andrew and Charlotte Wade. This move led to the persecution of both the Wades and the Bradens, culminating in a bombing of the house and the beginning of a hysteria that would follow the Bradens for years. They were indicted for sedition, accused of affiliation with the Communist Party, and Carl was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Eventually, due to a technicality, Carl’s charges were dropped, and the Bradens returned to their activism.
After the trial, the Bradens went to work for the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), working to convince whites to join the Civil Rights Movement. Anne began writing for SCEF’s paper The Southern Patriot. During this time, Anne also wrote her memoir, The Wall Between. Her book truly examined Southern White racism from an internal perspective. The Bradens were among the most influential white allies of the Civil Rights movement.
Even after Carl’s death in 1975, Anne continued to work towards complete racial equality. She formed the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice (SOC) to battle environmental racism. She worked on the Jesse Jackson campaigns for president, and a part of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. She continued to write for many different papers.
Anne eventually received the ACLU’s Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty in 1990, and continued to work in Louisville, leading drives against racism and taught courses in social justice history until her death on March 6, 2006.