After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, Johnnie Carr founded the Montgomery Improvement Association. Carr was a Civil Rights Movement leader from 1955 until her death.
Johnnie Rebecca Carr was born Johnnie Rebecca Daniels on January 26, 1911, in Montgomery, Alabama. Her father, a local farmer named John, died when she was nine years old. Annie, Johnnie’s mother, worked as a domestic servant in Richmond, Virginia.
Carr went to a private school for young Black females. Montgomery Industrial School for Girls was the original name. During her time at the school, she became close friends with classmate Rosa McCauley, who would go on to become the iconic civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
Carr married and had two children after the school closed in 1927 instead of returning home. In 1931, she began her activist career by raising funds to pay for the legal representation of nine African-American defendants falsely accused of rape in a case known as the Scottsboro Trials. She also joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) around this time and went on to become the youth director and secretary of the Montgomery NAACP chapter in the 1940s. Working with the NAACP also allowed her to reconnect with a childhood friend, Rosa Parks.
When Parks was arrested, the Montgomery Improvement Association, led by Martin Luther King Jr., called for a citywide bus boycott. Carr was instrumental in the behind-the-scenes organization of the subsequent 381-day boycott. She drove boycotters, fed protestors, and delivered speeches at rallies across the country. The boycott ended in 1956, when the Supreme Court decided to desegregate the Montgomery public transportation system.
Carr and her husband (Arlam Carr) were involved in a federal lawsuit to desegregate Montgomery schools against the Montgomery County Board of Education in 1964. Arlam Jr., who was 13 at the time, was a plaintiff in the case. In 1969, Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. issued his decision in the Carr vs. Montgomery Board of Education case, ruling that the school board had been illegally dividing itself into two separate sections for dealing with black and white students. As a result, the Carrs’ son was one of the first 13 black students to attend Montgomery’s formerly all-white Sidney Lanier High School. Johnnie Rebecca Daniels Carr, 97, died on February 22, 2008.