Anne McCarty Braden

Born: July 28, 1924

Died: March 6, 2006

Born in Louisville, Anne McCarty grew up in Anniston, Alabama. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from a woman's college in Virginia and took her first journalism posts in Alabama.(Fox 2006) She later moved back to Louisville to take a position with the Louisville Times where she met Carl Braden whom she married in 1948. Anne went on to work at the Louisville Courier-Journal and later joined the staff of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, a civil rights organization where she edited its newspaper, The Southern Patriot.

I wanted to be a journalist – a newspaper reporter – ever since I was a child. Probably my mother put that idea in my bonnet to begin with. She was the first woman editor of the Kentucky Colonel, the University of Kentucky paper. She wanted to be a newspaper reporter, which was somewhat forward at that time, but she didn't. She got married instead. She never worked a day in her life on a paying job, but I think she would certainly tell you she was happy that way and I suppose she was. I think another part of her probably really wished she had had a career. (Pfisterer 1981)

I was part of that generation of women who benefited by the war. They offered me a job at the [Louisville] Times. I had been up here and interviewed with Mark Etheridge when I was looking for other jobs. Talked to him about it. They offered me a job in the women's department at the Courier-Journal. The women's department was for the birds. I knew I didn't want to do that. So I turned that down. Then the Times opened up...

Most people worked on Saturdays in those days. I stayed at the courthouse most of the time and had a pressroom there. I would get up early at five or six o'clock in the morning and start calling the rounds, see what had happened in the night. Go up there and then I'd stay all day and then I'd go back and call in stories for the afternoon paper. Then I'd go back to the office and write stories for the morning paper. I probably didn't leave until ten or eleven o'clock. (Braden 2001)

Anne and Carl were key figures in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1954 they purchased a home in a White Louisville suburb for a Black colleague, Andrew Wade IV, and his family. Unknown assailants dynamited the house. No one was hurt in the blast. The police also made no arrests, but Anne and Carl as well as five other whites were charged with sedition for inciting unrest with their purchase of the house. Carl was convicted to 15 years prison time. This verdict was overturned in 1956 after Carl had served seven months. Anne's case never went to trial. In 1959 Anne's book about the case, The Wall Between, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Despite these charges and community disapproval Anne continued her work in social activism. Martin Luther King, Jr. called attention to her work in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.(King 1963)

Over the years, the couple faced charges of being Communists. Refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1958, Carl served another nine months in jail. In 1967 the Bradens were again charged with sedition for protesting against a strip mining operation in eastern Kentucky. That case led to a federal court overturning Kentucky's anti-sedition law as unconstitutional.

The ominous, controversial woman [Anne Braden] wasn't fleshed out to me until 1965 when I met her at a meeting for open housing in a Louisville Highlands church. Smelling faintly of bourbon. This short, slight woman was the one I'd heard for years was the "kiss of death" in the liberal circles in which I circulated? Where were her horns?

I soon found out. During twenty years of working with Anne on civil rights campaigns, peace efforts, and movements to empower the poor and powerless, Anne's horns have caught me time and time again.

I learned that the danger which is associated with Anne is the truth she speaks and the discomfort that that causes each of us, for it challenges us to be better than we really want to be. Her dangerousness rests in her forcing us to measure what we say we believe against what we do to realize that belief. It often hurts, for the enemy too frequently is us.

– Suzy Post (Tribute)

Despite threats of violence and being vilified by some for her beliefs, Anne continued to fight social injustice. In 1990 she was awarded the first Medal of Liberty by the American Civil Liberties Union. After her death in 2006, the University of Louisville created the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research in her honor.

Sources and Recommended Reading

"A Tribute to Anne Braden on Her 60th Birthday." In Lois Morris Papers, 1920-1988. University Archives and Records Center, University of Louisville.
"Anne Braden Demonstrating." LD15963, Louisville Defender Collection, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.
"Anne Mccarty Braden (July 28, 1924 - March 6, 2006), Amercian Advocate of Racial Equality."
Braden, Anne. The Wall Between. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1958.
Ernst, John, and Yvonne Baldwin. "The Not So Silent Minority: Louisville's Antiwar Movement, 1966-1975." Journal of Southern History 73, no. 1 (February 2007): 105-42.
Fosl, Catherine. "'Once Comes the Moment to Decide': Anne Braden and the Civil Rights Movement." Emory University, 2000.
Fosl, Catherine, and Angela Y. Davis. Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
Fosl, Catherine, and Tracy E. K'Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2009.
Fox, Margalit. "Anne Braden, 81, Activist in Civil Rights and Other Causes." New York Times, March 17, 2006, C15.
K'Meyer, Tracy E. "Anne Braden." In Oral History Collection. University Archives & Records Center, University of Louisville, March 22, 2001.
K'Meyer, Tracy E. "The West End Community Council: Building Interracial Community in Louisville's West End." Ohio Valley History (Fall 2007): 6-31.
King, Martin Luther, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail. April 16, 1963.
Pfisterer, Ruthe. "Anne Braden." In Oral History Collection. University Archives & Records Center, University of Louisville, January 5, 1981.