In the 1960s, Marie Walker Johnson was a Black Creole civil rights advocate in Oakland, California. She was a nurse, a mother of five, and an integral part of numerous grassroots organizations in the East Bay. She participated in these organizations by marching, composing letters, making speeches, going to court proceedings, and producing newspaper articles. Johnson fought for the rights of people and families who had been wrongly treated throughout her life.
Henry Delpit and Leontine Sorina welcomed Marie Clara Delpit into the world on July 19, 1921 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She went to Catholic school as a child. Marie married Black Creole Henry Steven Walker in 1943 when she was twenty-one years old. She already had two little girls whom Henry helped raise following their marriage.
After having their first son in 1944, the family relocated to California. The Walkers had two more children in the years after their relocation. Henry worked as a bricklayer and a hod carrier up until his illness, and the family lived in poverty. Marie then decided to become a nurse in order to help the family. Henry died in 1959, and Marie wed Jacob Johnson in February 1967. She continued to go by Marie Walker Johnson after that, even after the couple’s divorce in June 1970.
Years of discriminatory housing and employment practices made Black Oaklanders poorer and concentrated them in fewer regions of the city, including the communities where Johnson lived. As a result, some of her Black neighbors started a little newspaper called The Flatlands in an effort to unite the underprivileged, give them a voice for their problems, and motivate them to take action. The Flatlands regularly discussed Johnson’s activism and published several of her writings. For the Black Panther, the publication of the Black Panther Party, she also contributed articles. The demeaning treatment Black people get at the hands of the police was a recurring issue in her writing.
Numerous East Bay and Oakland-based organizations, such as the regional Welfare Rights Organization, Citizens for Equal Opportunity, and the Ralph S. Williams Campaign Committee, all employed Marie Walker Johnson as its secretariat. She also joined Black Strike for Justice and grew older within the Black Panther Party. She also served as the first secretary of Blacks Unified to Motivate Progress and was a founding member of the Committee for Children (BUMP). Johnson served as the program coordinator for the 1967 Juneteenth Freedom Festival, which BUMP produced. She also took part in the 1967 Stop the Draft Week event, where she was physically assaulted by police.
Johnson was a founding member of Woman Power, a revolutionary feminist anti-war organization that said that the United States government had “renounced its authority to rule” and advocated for revolution.
Marie Walker Johnson passed away in 1974 at the age of 53 after spending her entire life helping the less fortunate in her neighborhood. She is interred in the Saint Joseph Catholic Cemetery in San Pablo, California, near to her first husband, Henry Walker.