Johnnie Carr – Civil Rights leader

Thanks to the Air Force, this Montanan lived for almost 17 years in Montgomery Alabama. Within a block of the state capitol, one could see the church where Martin Luther King jr preached, stand where Jefferson Davis took his oath of office as president of the Confederacy, and visit the telegraph office from where the telegram beginning the Civil War was sent.

As a student of history, this was a fascinating place to live.  I’ve crossed the Selma bridge innumerable times. I’ve visited the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham, and the Baptist Church across the street from it, where little children were killed by a bomb set off there.

I spent a lot of my free time working in the inner city. I was ward mission leader and/or in the stake mission presidency for 9 years. In 1986, we opened missionary work to the blacks in Montgomery. I was the group leader opening up the church in Tuskegee Alabama, until the first branch was organized 6 months later.

Of all such experiences, one of my favorites was getting to know Johnnie Carr.  Johnnie was one of Rosa Parks’ best friends when she was arrested for riding in the front of the bus.  She was there that night the bus boycott was organized. Johnnie succeeded Martin Luther King jr as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), which she presided over until her death 5 years ago this month. Along with Rosa and MLKjr, she is considered one of the three topmost people in the early Civil Rights Movement.

Of all the major Civil Rights leaders that came out of Montgomery, she was the only one who stayed, living across the street from a park where in decades past she was not allowed to enter because of the color of her skin.

In her later years, her work with the MIA was focused not on Civil Rights as much, but helping poor black youth to return to their important heritage.  She was saddened by how today’s youth have forgotten the struggle for freedom and a better life, and have instead turned into drug dealers and gangsters.  She actively worked to keep kids in school, away from drugs and gangs, and for a return to strong families and education.

To me, it still shocks me to think that the peaceful activism that Johnnie and others sought has been forgotten by so many, and replaced with a lifestyle with no history nor vision.  To be educated means one is “acting white.”  For many in the inner cities, they feel their only way ahead is to deal drugs or steal.  Fathers are no longer in the home, but are just sperm donors. The “N” word, which I’ve grown to hate has much as any other dirty word, is commonly used by young blacks – ignoring the history of that ugly word.  Many of them have become what Johnnie and the others sought so hard to free them from: they are enslaving themselves.

I hope that in this month of February, Black History Month, that we all embrace it as OUR History Month.  The story of Martin Luther King jr, Alex Haley, Frederick Williams, George Washington Carver

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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery ( He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

17 thoughts on “Johnnie Carr – Civil Rights leader

  1. “and visit the telegraph office from where the telegram beginning the Civil War was sent”

    Are you talking about authorization to fire on Ft. Sumter, or something else? The Civil War buff in me is interested.

  2. When Union General James Wilson came to fight the Confederates in 1865, Montgomery sent the rebel army to gather in Selma (to the west 40 miles). They allowed the union troops to peacefully gather by the river, where they provided them with provisions, and notified them that the rebel forces were waiting for them near Selma. Selma ended up being burned to the ground, while Montgomery was spared.

  3. Should white people complain about black people not living up to the dreams and aspirations of their civil-rights pioneers? Or rather, does it do any good to complain, or does it do more harm than good? Black people are pretty sensitive about white folks complaining about the hypocracy of their using the N-word, when white folks invented the word and created it’s connotations. Only black folks get a free pass on that kind of criticism. Obama can complain about absentee fathers in the black community, but not Romney. We’ve lost that priviledge. That’s the price of a nation built on the backs of black slavery. Let them take care of their own problems in their own time. Progress actually is being made. The resentment and victim mentality will eventually run it’s course.

  4. “Should white people complain about black people not living up to the dreams and aspirations of their civil-rights pioneers? ”

    Frankly, Nate, some people find the idea of taking a person’s skin color into account when determining what types of thoughts, feelings, or statements they are allowed to make to be repugnant.

    ” Black people are pretty sensitive about white folks complaining about the hypocracy of their using the N-word, when white folks invented the word and created it’s connotations”
    Really? All the black people in the world have gotten together, held a meeting where they unanimously voted that “white people aren’t allowed to dislike the n-word”, and voted Nate as their representative? How is this not in recorded history?

    “Only black folks get a free pass on that kind of criticism.” Again, your usuage of treating black and white people differently is a type of affront on “equality” that I find to be repugnant.

    “Obama can complain about absentee fathers in the black community, but not Romney.” While this is very typical liberal logic, it makes no sense to me or anyone else. If it’s “right” for a person of one skin color to say it, it’s also “right” for a person of another skin color to say it. That’s what colorblind mean, that’s what MLK jr talked about. My deceased half-sister (white) had a child with a black man. Is there some taint about her white skin that prevents her complaining about her daughter’s absentee father? What right do you have to go around telling people “White folks aren’t allowed to open their mouths?”

    “We’ve lost that priviledge.” Speak for yourself buddy. I’ve inheririted no shame for what other white people have done in the past. I don’t even think I have any American slave owners in my ancestry, so why should I feel shame, or that I’ve lost some priviledge because of my skin color. That’s so wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

  5. Ft. Sumter didn’t start the war. Lincoln’s decision to raise an army of 75,000 men after Ft. Sumter is what started the tragic Civil War.

    If you’re going to list great black Americans, you can’t forget the greatest of them all in my opinion, Booker T. Washington.

  6. Yes, Booker T Washington was an amazing man, and founded Alabama State Univ and Tuskegee.

    Nate, my post first articulated briefly the experience I’ve had in the black community, so that I could show the basis of my comments. As I see it, Johnnie Carr was not just worried about black youth, but of all youth that have lost their way from the great dynamic our forefathers and mothers (which include MLKjr and Johnnie) have established for us. As with Alma the Younger, Johnnie feared the youth would forget the lessons of the past and the captivity of the fathers. Civil Rights predates the bus boycott, as people around the world have for centuries sought to rise above the squalor of feudal systems and tyrants, who kept them ignorant and poor. I am sure that before the “N” word, there were many other epithets used to describe slaves, servants, and serfs.
    The point I am making, and I’m sure my friend Johnnie would agree, is that the youth cannot free themselves, if they see themselves enslaved to their current culture. If they call themselves “N”, then they cannot see themselves as Children of God with an amazing potential. This is true, regardless of race, etc.

    I did not write the post so we can gang up on liberals or Pres Obama. I wrote it to celebrate an amazing woman, who rose up from a form of slavery to cause change. In her lifetime, she saw a lot of great changes occur. She caused a lot of great changes to occur. But she also saw some major tragedies because of gangs, drugs, violence, etc. that still need fixing. Bickering between conservatives and liberals will not fix that situation. Both sides agree that at risk youth need role models, leaders, and help to guide them out of the slave culture they now find themselves in, and into a culture of success that many whites, blacks, and others have enjoyed BECAUSE we’ve had people like Johnnie Carr.

  7. h_nu, my insights were not liberal per-se as much as they were pragmatic. A lot of black people are uptight about white people complaining about their culture, including the ubiquity of the n-word in black youth culture. Should they be uptight? No, probably not. Should white people be able to say anything they want to say? Sure. It’s a free country. All I’m saying is that black people find it offensive, because still suffer from victim mentality of centuries of racism and oppression. Just be aware that if you are white, and you complain about black culture, you are going to stir up a lot of resentment. It’s the simple truth. So why complain? Are there problems in black culture? Black people know they have problems, and they have their own leaders and role models trying to make a difference. And they are making progress, inspite of the resentment stirred up by righteous white right-wingers who have the courage to point their finger at the follies of black culture. So it’s smart to treat black people “differently” as you say, sensitively. Give them a break. I’m sorry if you feel this cramps your freedom of expression or colorblindness.

    Rame, Jonnie Carr seems like a great person, and a good example for all youths. It’s precicely why sensitive people in the media always try to address problems in the black culture in the context of problems for everyone. While the problems may be more marked in black-culture, they are universal, and speaking of them universally takes pressure off the racial jumpiness black people feel when we discuss their problems.

    I also think there is an argument for relaxing a bit about black youth culture use of the n-word. I don’t think they use the n-word because subliminally they are slaves to their culture. They use it with irony and attitude. It’s a harmless riff on their identity as former subjects of a hateful epitath, which they now playfully use on each other. Maybe it won’t get one very far on Wall Street, but why not? That’s just the kind of attitude a good trader needs. Actually the white folks seem just as uptight as the black folks about the use of the word in ironic settings. Hense why black folks have to “act white” to get by in the white man’s world, as they should. Blacks should be sensitive to whites, whites should be sensitive to blacks.

  8. So, after the Confederates shelled Fort Sumter, it was Lincoln’s call for volunteers that started the war?

    Reminds me of a friend’s excuse to his mother: “He hit me back first.”

  9. Guys, I would rather this post not be preempted over an argument on who started the Civil War.

    Johnna, you are welcome. I think we need more heroes and to discuss what things they did. There is too much controversy and problems always discussed, that it is nice to share the amazing stories of wonderful people we have known or read about.

    Let me share another hero:

    Renee Olson, who passed away just a few years ago, was a dear friend of mine. Many in the Bloggernacle knew her as a woman who used to attack the LDS Church, until she gained her own testimony and joined. She was a good friend of Darius Gary and Margaret Young. One of the greatest honors anyone has ever given me, was when Renee “adopted” me as her brother and made me an honorary black person. Her efforts to move the gospel forward in her work with the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) and with Genesis (Church’s official forum for blacks) was remarkable. I think the world is a little worse off for not having Johnnie or Renee around anymore.

    BTW, you can read Renee’s testimony here:

  10. LOL. I wonder if the Radical Libertarians ran their “Abraham Lincoln: History’s Greatest Monster” campaign past their PR firm.

  11. The South’s refusal to give up their slaves and their active campaign to expand the slave holding territory started the Civil War. Read the actual statements contained in each states’ succession statements. Every single one of them is fixated on the federal government’s perceived attempts to take away their property/slaves. See a sampling here:

  12. I find it amazing how a perfectly innocent post got off the track so fast. There’s still a lot of white defensiveness among us.

    I don’t really care who started the war at what point but I do resent those who try to say it had nothing to do with slavery. As the great confederate raider John Singleton Mosby said, “It was always about slavery.”

    Finally, as for our freedom to say what we want to say, maybe if we were as sensitive to hurtful things said about others as we are about hurtful things said about us, this wouldn’t really be an issue.

  13. Guys, are you really going to derail a good post and turn it into your own personal gripe posts? This discussion is nothing about the Civil War or who started it or why. It is about someone very important.

    Such useless distractions, you may as well spend your time arguing whether the Pearly Gates slide or swing open, instead of discussing the importance of the atonement of Christ. Totally missing the point because you are focused on less important or unrelated issues.

    Slavery is ugly. Period. Whether the war was directly about slavery or not, slavery was still an issue that impacted the nation for centuries. It took courageous people like my friend Johnnie Carr to help the nation get beyond slavery, Jim Crow laws, racism, and hatred.

    That is what is important about this post.

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