Carl and Anne Braden Papers, 1928-2006


During their lifetimes Carl and Anne Braden were concerned with social change in the fields of civil rights, civil liberties, education, labor, and politics. They worked against discrimination, the intimidation of the McCarthy era and the House Committee of Un-American Activities (HUAC), the suppression of labor unions, and the injustices of war and poverty.

Carl James Braden, the son of a railroad man who befriended and supported Eugene V. Debs, was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He attended local parochial schools and was a pre-seminary student at Mount Saint Francis College in southern Indiana from 1928 to 1930. Braden left school at sixteen to begin a newspaper career with the Louisville Herald-Post. He subsequently worked on the Harlan (Kentucky) Daily Enterprise and the Knoxville (Tennessee) Journal. In 1937 he went to the Cincinnati Enquirer to become a labor reporter, and at 25 became editor of the Enquirer's Kentucky edition. While in Cincinnati he helped to organize the American Newspaper Guild and a newspaper credit union. In 1945 he returned to Louisville as labor editor for the Louisville Times. He served as a feature writer and correspondent for such papers as the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Newsweek, and the Federated Press. In 1948 Carl and Anne Braden served as editors and public relations directors for several CIO locals in Louisville: the United Farm Equipment Workers, Transport Workers, Public Workers, and Furniture Workers. Carl returned to newspaper work in 1950 as a copy editor for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Anne Gambrell McCarty Braden was born in Louisville, Kentucky; her family moved twice in Mississippi and finally settled in Anniston, Alabama, where Anne was educated. After attending public schools in Alabama, she attended Stratford College and Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Virginia. After graduation in 1945, Anne reported for the Anniston (Alabama) Star and the Birmingham News. She returned to Louisville in 1947 and became education editor for the Louisville Times. She and Carl Braden worked together on the Times staff and were married in 1948. Mrs. Braden was jailed in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1951 for leading a delegation of white women to the governor's office to protest the execution of a Negro man charged with rape.

In October 1954, Carl and Anne Braden were indicted in Louisville under a state sedition law by the Jefferson County Grand Jury after the house they purchased for a Black family (Andrew Wade) was bombed. The charges against Mrs. Braden and five other people were dropped, but Carl was held under bail of $40,000, tried and found guilty of sedition for having incited the bombing. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His wife campaigned for his release, and, in 1956, after he had served eight months, the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed his conviction. (The U.S. Supreme Court had previously declared state sedition laws unconstitutional in the Steven Nelson case.) Anne Braden wrote The Wall Between, a non-fiction finalist for the 1958 National Book Award based on her experiences.

In September 1957, both Bradens became full-time field organizers for the New Orleans-based Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), while continuing to live in Louisville. They also edited the Southern Patriot, the SCEF newspaper. The Southern Conference Educational Fund was the successor to the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW) which had been founded in 1938. SCHW dissolved in 1948, and SCEF became an activist organization with James A. Dombrowski as director. The purpose of SCEF was to enlist white people in the campaign against racial discrimination. In this capacity the Bradens worked closely with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC).

In July 1958, the Bradens were subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Anne Braden's appearance was delayed, but Carl Braden appeared and refused to answer questions about participation in the integration movement, citing his First Amendment rights. In 1961 he was indicted for contempt of Congress, and was sentenced to a year in prison. In response to Braden's conviction, Anne joined the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (ECLC) and the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee (NCAHUAC). She traveled widely to rally support and to campaign for clemency for Carl and other HUAC victims. After serving nine months of his sentence (which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld by a five to four vote), Carl was released in February 1962.

In 1966 the Bradens succeeded Dombrowski as co-directors of the Southern Conference Educational Fund. They moved the SCEF central office from New Orleans to Louisville and continued its efforts to draw white people into full participation in the southern civil rights movement. SCEF also opposed the war in Vietnam and organized the Southern Mountain Project, a program of assistance for the depressed areas of Appalachia. This project resulted in a second arrest for sedition in Pike County, Kentucky, in 1967. At this time the Kentucky law was declared unconstitutional.

In 1971 Carl and Anne Braden began to relinquish their ties with SCEF. Carl retired as executive director while Anne continued as director for a year and then returned to her position with SCEF's newspaper, the Southern Patriot, as a full-time editor. After protracted dissension within the organization, Carl Braden resigned from the organization in October 1973 and established the Training Institute for Propaganda and Organizing (TIPO) to teach practical organizing skills and to work on the cases of Angela Davis, Walter Collins, and other political prisoners. Anne resigned from SCEF in 1974. As an outgrowth of his work on the Angela Davis campaign, in 1973 Carl Braden was a founder of the National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR), and he served as co-director with Davis for the organization's first two years. Carl Braden died of a heart attack on February 18, 1975.

Anne Braden continued their work. In 1975 she and several other former members of the SCEF “minority” formed the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice. She continued for many years as the SOC co-chair, newsletter editor, and grant writer. Alarmed by the upsurge in racist violence, in 1979 Braden was a founder of the National Anti-Klan Network. In 1984 and 1988 she was an active supporter of the presidential candidacies of Jesse Jackson. Other organizations with which she was associated in leadership positions included the Racial Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches, the National Committee for Independent Political Action, and NAARPR. On the local level Anne Braden was a leader of the Kentucky Alliance against Racist and Political Repression, the local affiliate of the National Alliance, and of the Louisville school desegregation campaign. In 1990 she was the first winner of the American Civil Liberties Union's Roger Baldwin Award for her service to civil liberties. Anne Braden remained an activist until her death on March 6, 2006 at which time she was hailed as one of the nation's leading civil rights activists.

The Bradens were the parents of three children, Anita who died at age 11 in 1964, and Beth and James who survived them.