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Anne McCarty Braden papers

Identifier: 2006_050-UA

This collection contains 153.375 linear feet of materials related to or collected by Louisville social justice activist Anne Braden from early childhood until her death in 2006. While the collection includes a significant amount of personal materials from Anne and her husband Carl, the bulk of this material relates to their roles as civil rights activists, including its expression in Anne's writings, teaching materials, and correspondence. Also included are materials written about the Bradens. These papers take the form of correspondence, booklets and flyers, manuscripts, syllabi, audio and video tapes, and photographs. Included in the personal materials are scrapbooks, yearbooks, and diaries.

The largest series in this collection consists of materials relating to the various organizations that Braden was part of, from the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) and the Carl Braden Memorial Center (which she founded upon her husband's death) to St. George Episcopal Church in Louisville and the Center for Democratic Renewal, among others. Her involvement with the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (Kentucky Alliance), which she helped initiate in the late 1970s as a local branch of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice (SOC) are well documented. SOC, founded by Braden after she left SCEF, fought for tenants' rights, environmental justice, labor concerns, and against racism. The Kentucky Alliance had similar concerns, working to combat police brutality and to promote school equality, fair labor, environmental justice and similar issues.

The collection also includes subject files on issues and individuals, including topics such as environmental justice, particular legal cases, race and racism, prisoners' rights, education, war and peace. Included as well are printed materials (newsletters, flyers, booklets, buttons, etc.) relating to a similar range of topics. In addition, there are materials written about the Bradens by others, including plays and theses, a variety of audio and video tapes, and several boxes of unidentified photographs.

Anne and her husband Carl Braden donated their papers to the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) in the 1950s; a large collection of their papers, including materials in Anne's possession at the time of her death, are thus housed at WHS. Portions of their library were purchased by the College of Arts and Sciences to be housed in the newly formed Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research. There are also small Braden collections at the University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky.


  • 1920s-2006
  • Majority of material found in 1970s-2006


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to researchers.


153.375 linear feet (125 boxes)

Biographical / Historical

Anne McCarty was born on July 28, 1924, in Louisville, Kentucky, but spent most of her childhood in rigidly-segregated Anniston, Alabama, raised by middle-class parents who were firm believers in racial hierarchy. A devout Episcopalian, she studied literature and journalism at a Virginia women's college, then worked as a newspaper reporter in postwar Alabama, where she was repelled by its blatantly discriminatory justice system. Returning to the border city of her birth, she joined the staff of the Louisville Times in 1947. Covering civil rights causes and meeting radical reformers for the first time, she experienced a dramatic political transformation. She met and in 1948 married fellow newspaperman and labor editor Carl Braden, a leftist trade unionist. Becoming an activist team, the Bradens left mainstream journalism to apply their writing talents to the interracial left wing of Louisville's labor movement.

The Bradens may have remained local activists had it not been for their agreeing in 1954 to the request of an African American friend, Andrew Wade, that they act as "fronts" for his family to purchase a home in Louisville's segregated suburbs. When the Wades moved in, white neighbors burned a cross in front of the new house, shot out windows, and condemned the Bradens for buying it. Six weeks later, the Wades' new home was dynamited. This act of housing desegregation turned into a local variation of the anticommunist hysteria known nationally as "McCarthyism." The investigation shifted from segregationist violence to the alleged Communist Party affiliations of those who had supported the Wades. In October 1954 Anne and Carl Braden and five other whites were charged with sedition, and Carl Braden, as the perceived ringleader, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Anne was never tried and the conviction was later overturned, but the Wades lost their home and never saw its bombers prosecuted. The Bradens were left penniless and reviled regionally as "reds."

Blacklisted locally, they took jobs in 1957 as field organizers for the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), a New Orleans-based civil rights organization whose mission was to solicit white southern support for the African American freedom movement. For 16 years, Anne Braden edited SCEF's monthly newspaper, The Southern Patriot, also publicizing civil rights campaigns through press releases and articles for other small journals. Although their radical politics marginalized them among many of their own generation, the Bradens were reclaimed by younger activists of the 1960s as civil libertarians who connected racism to war and poverty. After her husband's death in 1975, Anne Braden remained until her own death on March 6, 2006, among the U.S.'s most outspoken white anti-racist activists and writers.

Her 1958 memoir of her sedition case, The Wall Between, was one of the few books of its time to unpack the psychology of white southern racism from within. A runner-up for the National Book Award soon after its release, it resulted in her becoming one of only six white writers commended by Rev. Martin Luther King Junior in his 1963 "Letter from Birmingham Jail" as anti-segregationists. Persisting in spite of her radical reputation, Braden was later instrumental in organizing across racial divides in the new environmental and anti-nuclear movements that sprang up in the 1970s-80s. Her widely-reproduced "Letter to White Southern Women" cautioned the women's liberation movement to act against racism. In 1990--no longer a pariah-- she received the first-ever Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union.

In the final decade of her life, her activism centered more on Louisville, mainly through the Kentucky Alliance against Racism and Political Repression. After 1996 she also taught social justice history classes at Northern Kentucky University and, in the final three years of her life, at the University of Louisville. Anne Braden died on March 6, 2006.

-- Catherine Fosl - Director, Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research


These materials are organized into ten series: I. Personal (6.25 linear feet); II. Braden's writings (7.5 linear feet); III. Correspondence (6.25 linear feet); IV. Teaching materials (5 linear feet); V. Organizations (57.5 linear feet); VI. Subject Files (19.25 linear feet); VII. Printed matter and ephemera (22.5 linear feet); VIII. Writings by others (2.5); IX. Audio and video tapes (10.375 linear feet); and X. Photographs (16.25 linear feet).


Anne McCarty Braden Papers
Angela Calloway and Katherine Burger Johnson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752