03/10/2004

Longtime Activist Gets Woman of Courage Award

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Johnnie Carr, an activist who has worked for equal rights for a half-century, was honored here yesterday when she received the third Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award.

The award is given annually by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Troy State University Montgomery as part of their Rosa Parks Woman of Courage lecture series, held at the Davis Theater for the Performing Arts.

Carr, 93, is an apt recipient of the award, as she was a close friend of Rosa Parks during the Montgomery Bus Boycott encouraged her to join the NAACP. Like hundreds of other black citizens in Montgomery, she and her husband, Arlam, helped in the boycott in every way they could.

In addition to attending community meetings each Monday night to bolster enthusiasm for the boycott, she also was an active member of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), the organization created in 1955 to support the boycott. Mrs. Carr has served as MIA president since 1967.

Johnnie Carr has diligently worked to improve Montgomery in a variety of ways. Her son, Arlam Jr., was the plaintiff in a lawsuit brought to desegregate Montgomery schools. She took part in voter registration campaigns and continues to serve as a polling official.

She has been active in One Montgomery, the Friendly Supper Club and Leadership Montgomery, all local groups seeking to bring black and white citizens together for the common goals that all people share — decent homes, good jobs, proper educations and a future for children that is free of fear and hate.

"Johnnie Carr is all about community, all about self-sacrifice, all about relationships among people," said Center president emeritus Joe Levin as he introduced this year's Woman of Courage. "She shows what one person can do when she knows she is right and needs no reassurance of the justness of her cause."

Previous recipients of the Woman of Courage Award were poet Nikki Giovanni and feminist Gloria Steinem.