Kathryn Johnson covered the civil rights movement on assignment from The Associated Press from the early sit-ins through the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Born and bred in a segregated South, Johnson had not sought the civil rights beat, but ultimately covered some of the great stories of that era, including integration of the universities of Alabama and Georgia. She was at the march from Selma and was the only reporter in the King home from the time he was assassinated until he was buried. Born in Columbus, Georgia in 1926, she attended all-female Agnes Scott College and went to work for AP in 1947 as a clerk-typist.
It was not until 1959 that she got her first reporting assignment, which she held until leaving the organization in 1978. Among other assignments, she covered the wives of the American POWs, held in Hanoi during the Vietnam War, and their return from captivity to the United States beginning in 1973. She also reported on the court-martial of Lt. William Calley in 1971, who was charged with the murder of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. She worked later for U.S. News & World Report and for CNN.
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My Time with the Kings By Kathryn Johnson
"Let Kathryn in," said Coretta Scott King to authorities. Three simple words that provided Kathryn Johnson, a reporter for The Associated Press's Atlanta bureau, unprecedented access to the grieving widow in the days following her husband's death. Johnson was on her way to a movie date when word came from Memphis that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated.
She immediately headed for the King home where, despite resistance from authorities on the scene, she was the only reporter allowed inside. Johnson's many years covering King and his family had earned her the trust to be a discreet, observant witness to the aftermath of a defining moment in American history.
Kathryn Johnson covered the Civil Rights movement across the South in the 1960s, often risking her own safety to observe first-hand the events of this great era. Her stories took her from witnessing the integration of the University of Georgia by dressing as a student, to hiding unobserved under a table near an infamous schoolhouse door in Alabama, to marching with the massive crowd from Selma to Montgomery.
Johnson, one of the only female reporters on the scene, threw herself into charged situations with a determination to break the news no matter what. Including never-before-published photos, her personal account of this period is a singular addition to the story of the Civil Rights movement.