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Nellie Stone Johnson


10,000 Fresh Voices | KFAI

Nellie Stone Johnson was born in 1905, with an ancestral mix of African-American, Native-American, and Euro-American heritage. She grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota, moved to Minneapolis, and by the late 1930s was one of the most influential forces in the state’s civil rights and labor movements. Nellie was the first women to serve on a national contract committee to negotiate equal pay for women, the first woman vice-president of the Minnesota Culinary Council, the first woman vice-president of the Local 665 Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, and the first African-American elected to citywide office in Minneapolis, when she won a seat on the Library Board in 1945. In the 1940s she spearheaded the drive to create the Minneapolis Fair Employment Practices department, which was the first of its kind in the nation. Nellie was also was an adviser to Minneapolis mayor Hubert Humphrey, and a founding member of the committee that worked out a merger between the Farmer-Labor Party and the Democratic Party—today’s DFL. She urged feminist groups to include women of color in the ERA fight, and was an activist with the NAACP for more than 60 years. Her political activism continued right up to her death in 2002 at the age of 96. The "Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship" was founded in 1989, and is awarded annually to minority students from union families. Produced for KFAI by Dixie Treichel. Oral history materials of an interview with Nellie Stone Johnson in 1975 provided courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, with assistance from Ryan Barland.