Civil rights icon Dr. Josie R. Johnson receives high honor

Minnesota civil rights icon Dr. Josie R. Johnson was honored with a special luncheon on Monday, March 13, to celebrate her receiving a 2022 University of Minnesota Regents Award, one of the highest honors the U bestows. The award recognizes those who demonstrate exceptionally valuable and meritorious service to the University.

CEHD nominated Dr. Johnson and led the process to secure supporting letters from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, the College of Liberal Arts, and Governor Tim Walz. Several media outlets covered the event, which was organized by a cross-college committee led by Ryan Warren of CEHD and Serena Wright from the Office of the President and Office of the Provost. The Regents Award citation reads:

“In recognition of her lifelong commitment to working in mind, body, and spirit for the betterment of humanity and justice for all people, the University of Minnesota is pleased to bestow the Regents Award to Dr. Josie Robinson Johnson. 

“Over the course of her life, Dr. Johnson’s commitment resulted in the passing of the fair housing bill in Minnesota, which was the first in the state and the country; and she led and built coalitions to win voting rights, civil rights, and to expand freedom for Black communities nationwide. The courage of her activism is evident in her proximity to the issues, as Dr. Johnson led the Minnesota delegation to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and participated in the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign in Mississippi, amongst many other examples.  

“Dr. Johnson has made the University of Minnesota a more equitable and inclusive institution, having served as the first African American Regent, having contributed to the founding of what is now the Department of African American and African Studies, the Common Ground Consortium, and to creating the All-University Diversity Forum, from which subsequent efforts established the infrastructure of what is now the University’s Office for Equity and Diversity. Dr. Johnson’s efforts inspire us to this day to make the University of Minnesota a global university for ALL Minnesotans.

“This Regents Award acknowledges Dr. Johnson’s direct contributions to the University and society at-large, contributions that have lasted and that continue to guide the University community to never waver in establishing more just, equitable, and welcoming communities.” 

Two special videos were created by CEHD’s own Jairus Davis for the luncheon: Hope in the Struggle I and Hope in the Struggle II.