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Oral History Interview with Lyman Johnson, July 12, 1990. Interview A-0351. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Lyman Johnson's views on civil rights were formed by his father, who rejected racial hierarchies. Johnson started working to achieve racial equality in Columbia, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky, after he returned from naval service following World War II. The interview begins with his description of violence that flared up in Columbia, Tennessee, after a black soldier's attack on a verbally abusive white store owner. Johnson asserts that the racial integration that should have occurred immediately after World War II was delayed as a result of apathy among white southerners, underlining the necessity of outside intervention. Though Louisville was more progressive than other southern cities, its leaders remained reluctant to endorse full equality. That reluctance made life difficult for black and white citizens alike.
  • Black neighborhood arms itself against state troops
  • Black neighbors organize armed resistance against the Ku Klux Klan, state police, and National Guard
  • Johnson mistaken for white by National Guardsmen
  • Black soldiers return from WWII with a new awareness of racial inequality
  • Seeking civil rights and racial equality but rejecting nonviolence
  • Johnson helps form the first integrated teachers' union in Louisville
  • Some whites support black rights in the face of community pressure
  • Johnson opposed plan for segregated teacher's unions in Atlanta
  • White Louisville leaders assumed that inequal race relations were "good enough"
  • External forces necessary to improve race relations in the South
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Tennessee--Race relations
  • African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky
  • Louisville (Ky.)--Race relations
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.