For years people have told Josie Johnson that she should write a book about her life’s journey. And now that book has been written. The University of Minnesota Press has published her memoir Hope in the Struggle.

The book outlines Johnson’s childhood in the Depression-era Jim Crow South, her years as a student at Fisk University in Nashville and her eventual coming to Minnesota in the 1950s. Josie Johnson’s life in Minnesota has touched on so many aspects of our state’s culture: She played a key role in Minnesota by creating the nation’s first state fair housing law, she was a leader of the Minnesota delegation at the March on Washington in 1963 and she led efforts in Minnesota to deal with racial inequities in Twin Cities classrooms.

Josie Johnson’s professional passion was education. She played an important role in creating the African American and African Studies program at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed in 1971 as our state’s first regent of color at the U of M. Johnson would later head diversity efforts at the school in the role of Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Johnson spent a fair amount of time in her Almanac interview talking about how she still sees “hope in the struggle.” She shared her feeling that, when she arrived in Minnesota in 1956, she sensed that the state was more willing to tackle racial problems than it is today.


Without question, Josie Johnson is one of our great state’s pioneers. Check out these other stories about MN’s Black Pioneers.

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a rousing speech at the University of Minnesota and sat down for an interview with Minnesota’s first African-American judge, L. Howard Bennett.

Discover several stories about racial housing covenants in Minneapolis in our History collection, or watch the full-length documentary, Jim Crow of the North.