Anne Braden, who died in March at age 81, was not as famous as Rosa Parks or Coretta Scott King. But her contributions to social change in our country were just as important as theirs, and for many her example was just as inspiring.
Anne Braden was a white Southerner. She was born in Louisville, Ky., and raised in Anniston, Ala., in a fairly well-off Episcopalian family during the 1920s and ’30s, when segregation and white supremacy were pervasive and virtually unquestioned. After college in Virginia, she returned to Alabama as a newspaper reporter. In later years, Braden often said that covering the Birmingham courthouse, where unequal justice was handed out according to skin color, was what really radicalized her.
When she took a job at the (now defunct) Louisville Times, Braden began to find ways to act on her growing outrage at racial injustice. She met and married Carl Braden, who at the time was the labor reporter at The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. Carl was from a working-class southern Indiana family, and through his involvement with the labor movement was connected with a network of left-wing activists in the city—the remnants of the New Deal era’s communist-led Popular Front.