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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1085

Papers of Kathryn M. Johnson, 1948, undated


Civil rights activist and educator, Kathryn M. Johnson's incomplete autobiography, "The Color Line," undated, and her pamphlet "The Dark Race in the Dawn," 1948.


  • Creation: 1948
  • Creation: Undated

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Originals closed; use digital images.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Kathryn M. Johnson is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


.21 linear feet (1/2 file box)

The collection contains a draft autobiography and a published pamphlet by African American civil rights activist and teacher, Kathryn Magnolia Johnson. Johnson's autobiography presents details of her life and civil rights work, as well as personal observations about prejudice and racism. She provides extensive information about her experiences living and traveling in a segregated and hostile United States, either as a field worker for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) or as a teacher of African and African American history. Of interest, as well, are Johnson's descriptions of her experiences while working with African American soldiers for the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I. In Johnson's pamphlet "The Dark Race in the Dawn: Proof of Black African Civilization in the Americas before Columbus," (William Frederick Press, New York), she compiles historical information from Professor Leo Wiener's three volume work, Africa and the Discovery of America where he discusses the presence of Africans in the Americas before European settlement.


Kathryn Magnolia Johnson was born in an African American settlement in Darke County, Ohio in 1878 to Walter and Lucinda Jane McCown Johnson. She graduated at the top of her high school class in New Paris, Ohio (1895), and attended Wilberforce University, receiving a teaching certificate and a bachelor's degree. She was a teacher in Ohio, North Carolina, and Kansas City, Kansas, and dean of women at Shorter College in Little Rock, Arkansas (1906). While in Kansas City, she helped establish a Young Women's Christian Association for African Americans. In 1913 she began to do field work for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, selling Crisis magazine, traveling widely through the South, and organizing branches in Kansas City, Topeka, and in Oklahoma. During World War I, Johnson went to France with the American Expeditionary Forces, an experience she described in Two Colored Women with the American Expeditionary Forces (1920), co-authored with Addie D. Hunton. After the war, Johnson traveled widely, lecturing on African American history for African American communities. She died in Chicago in 1944 or 1945. A pamphlet by Johnson, "The Dark Race in the Dawn," was published in 1948.

Physical Location

Collection stored off site.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 97-M145

The papers of Kathryn M. Johnson were given to the Schlesinger Library by her grand-niece, Marian Jackson, November 1997.

Processing Information

Processed: November 1997

By: Anne Engelhart.

Updated and additional description added: September 2020

By: Laura Peimer.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by Radcliffe Class of 1956 and the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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