As an Alabama native and civil rights activist, Johnnie Carr was an active participant in the Montgomery bus boycott. She recalled hearing Martin Luther King speak for the first time at a meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in August 1955, and was impressed by the “flow of his words and the way that he expressed them while just talking about ordinary things” (Garrow, 529).
Johnnie Rebecca Daniels, the youngest of six children, was born in 1911. She grew up near Montgomery, Alabama, on a farm owned by her parents, John Daniels and Anna Richmond Daniels. Carr attended the Montgomery Industrial School for African American Girls, where she befriended classmate Rosa Louise McCauley, later known as Rosa Parks.
In 1927, when Carr was in the seventh grade, her school closed. Aware of her mother’s difficulties supporting the family since her father died, she decided to get married at the age of sixteen to Jack Jordan. After the marriage dissolved, Carr worked and went to school while her mother cared for her two children. After finishing junior high school, she took a course in practical nursing, a career choice that allowed her to make $12 more a week than she did working as a domestic.
Carr became active in numerous clubs and organizations, including the NAACP, where she worked closely with E. D. Nixon and childhood friend Rosa Parks. According to Carr, before the boycott people were depressed and bitter because they “didn’t have any opportunities to participate in things that we felt that as citizens we should’ve been given.… we finally realized that it’s not whether you have achieved in life, but whether you are a human being, that you should have an opportunity” (Carr, “Interview,” 527–528). During the boycott Carr was part of the carpool, served on committees, and spoke at mass meetings. She recalled, “Those of us who had automobiles felt that if other people who did not have cars would sacrifice and walk, we could certainly sacrifice our time and use our automobiles to help transport these people” (Carr, 1970). In 1957 she gave a speech at the Women’s Auxiliary of the Baptist State Convention of Illinois describing the bus boycott.
In 1964 Carr’s son, Arlam, was a test applicant to white Montgomery schools that led to a successful lawsuit ending segregation in Montgomery schools. From 1967 until her death Carr served as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association.
Carr, Virginia Durr, and Irene West, Interview by William Porter, 1970, MLK/OH-GAMK.
Carr, “Interview: Johnnie Carr, 17 July 1977,” by Steven M. Millner, in Walking City, ed. Garrow, 1989.
Williams, Johnnie, 1996.