Civil rights leader Josie Johnson describes remarkable career in new memoir

A Minnesota activist who has been a crucial piece of the civil rights movement is putting her life on paper.

Josie Johnson’s memoir, “Hope in the Struggle” details the years of championing social justice causes. From hearing a historic speech from a civil rights icon in person to helping nominate the nation’s first black President nearly 50 years later, Johnson has seen it all.

Now, she’s sharing her life story in the hopes of inspiring a new generation to get involved in the civil rights struggle.

“I’m excited about it because this is a whole new adventure for me,” Johnson said to FOX 9 Thursday.

In her 88 years, Johnson has experienced many memorable moments in the pages of Minnesota history. Now, she is contributing a chapter of her own.

“I began to try to figure out why are you involved in the struggle and what is it that keeps you hopeful?” she said.

Johnson grew up in Texas where she learned the importance of being involved in her community from her parents. Her fight for civil rights continued in Minnesota after her husband got a job at Honeywell.

She worked with the NAACP, the Minneapolis Urban League and was instrumental in getting the state’s fair housing law, the first of its kind in the country, passed in 1962.

“I think the degree of racism and lack of full participation by black people was no different in Minnesota than any other,” Johnson added.

She was part of the Minnesota delegation to the March on Washington where she heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s legendary speech.

She also went on to be the first black Regent at the University of Minnesota.

One of the highlights of her life, she said, was casting a vote for Barack Obama to get the nomination as a super delegate at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

“Historically, when you think about being able to be involved in the selection of an individual, a black individual, I never thought it would happen, so, yes, it was significant,” she said.

Now, Johnson hopes “Hope in the Struggle” inspires young people to get involved in the fight for justice and equality as well.

"I hope it will stimulate among our young people a desire to learn more about our ancestral history and to figure out how they fit into this history,” Johnson said.

Johnson says another reason she wrote the book is so her grandchildren and great grandchildren will know what she’s done when she is gone.