Nellie's activism began when she was quite young, distributing flyers for her father on her way to and from school. One of her first jobs was at the exclusive (all white - all male) Minneapolis Athletic Club (MAC). When MAC's Board of Directors decided to cut the employee's wages, Nellie responded by organizing the workers into a labor union. This was the start of a life-long commitment to working for labor rights and civil rights.
She proceeded to become the first woman in the nation to serve on national contract negotiations committee where she worked on a variety of issues, including pay equity.
Nellie Stone Johnson in 1943, just before she was elected to the Minneapolis Library Board.
Her many other contributions include:
-- over sixty years of activism with the NAACP;
-- first African-American to hold citywide office in Minneapolis;
-- served two terms on the Democratic National Committee;
-- owned and operated "Nellie's Alterations" for thirty years; and
-- has a scholarship for minority students from union families named in her honor.
Nellie was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree for her numerous achievements and contributions. Nellie's political activism continued right up to her death in 2002.
Born in December 1905, Lakeville, MN, to Gladys and William Allen. Nellie and her six siblings grew up on a dairy farm near Hinckley, MN. Her father was a member of the Non-Partisan League, a radical rural organization. Her mother was a former school teacher with an interest in political philosophy. At age 13, she distributed Non-Partisan League flyers on her way to and from school. She graduated from Hinckley High School and attended the University of Minnesota. For over 30 years, she has owned and operated Nellie's Alterations in downtown Minneapolis.
|Nellie Stone Johnson in later years, when a scholarship was established in her honor.
Honors / Awards
The "Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship" was founded in 1989. It is awarded annually to minority students from union families. In 1995, she received an honorary doctorate degree from St. Cloud State University. Nellie Stone Johnson was the inspiration for one of the nameless bronze sculptures, titled "Shadow Spirits," by artist Ta-Coumba Aiken and Seitu Jones. The statues represent individuals who contributed to the development of Minneapolis. The statues are symbolic of persons who disappear or are omitted from the pages of our history. The W. Harry Davis Foundation honored Nellie in 1988 for her service to the community. W. Harry Davis Foundation is a non-profit organization that works to develop black leadership in the metropolitan area. Nellie's many contributions were featured in the book "Contributions of Black Women to Minnesota History".
More on Nellie Stone Johnson:
A Nellie Stone Johnson Timeline
The Quotable Nellie Stone Johnson
A list of Nellie Stone Johnson's Contributions
Nellie Stone Johnson Biblography
Workday Minnesota obituary on Nellie Stone Johnson