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Dr. Josie Johnson given highest honors at University of Minnesota

Minnesota's "first lady of civil rights" honored
Minnesota's "first lady of civil rights" honored 01:53

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's "first lady of civil rights" was honored in a big way Monday. Dr. Josie Johnson -- known for her tireless fight for equity in the state -- has been awarded the Regents Award from the University of Minnesota.

The Regents Award is one of the highest honors given by the University of Minnesota, and it recognizes individuals, families and organizations that demonstrate exceptionally valuable service to the school.

Johnson was the first Black person appointed to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, but she's known for more than just her work at the U. During her storied career for equality, she has lobbied at the state capitol, helped nominate future president Barack Obama as a superdelegate at the 2008 DNC and fought tirelessly for equity in housing, education and voting rights in the state.

In the audience Monday afternoon, there were leaders from all over the state and country to show their gratitude to Johnson.

"All of their leadership activities and success stems from Josie providing access and opportunities, she provided. And so many of us really appreciate her tenacity her advocacy her grace," said Michael Rodriguez, dean of the U's College of Education and Human Development. "Everybody here today is here to thank her, because many of us owe our success to her."

The 92-year-old was busy greeting attendees Monday morning, many of which were impacted by her work and advocacy.

"It makes me hopeful to think about this state and university will be in another 92 years but as Josie knows all too well, we won't get there without hard work," Lt. Gov. Peggy Flannagan said.

Johnson helped found the African American Studies Department at the U. She was a professor in the College of Education, as well as a senior fellow in the Humphrey School. Johnson also was a diversity director of the All-University Forum and led the school's diversity efforts as associate vice president for academic affairs.  

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