Biography help needed with a notable, Lulu Merle Johnson, 2nd African-American woman to earn a PhD in history in the US [closed]

+8 votes
118 views

I am not good with biographies and I would love for a decent one to be written for Lulu Merle Johnson.  This is the opening bit from wikipedia -

"Lulu Merle Johnson (September 14, 1907 – October 19, 1995) was an American historian and university administrator. She was the second African-American woman to earn a PhD in history in the United States, and the first to do so in the state of Iowa. P. G. Dagbovie has described Johnson as being part of the "first distinguishable coterie of formally trained black women historians" in the U.S. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lulu_Johnson

I have found a fair number of secondary sources (links in the profile) but very few primary sources (including not even finding census records for 1920, 1925 (Iowa), 1930, or 1940!)

WikiTree profile: Lulu Johnson
closed with the note: Assistance received
in Genealogy Help by W Robertson G2G6 Mach 8 (82.4k points)
closed by W Robertson

Here is the 1920 Census:

"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDMV-H3X : accessed 9 July 2020), Lula M Johnston in household of Dick H Johnston, Washington, Taylor, Iowa, United States; citing  ED 154, sheet 4B, line 66, family 120, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 514; FHL microfilm 1,820,514.

Thanks!

3 Answers

+5 votes
 
Best answer

Father: Richard H. Johnson (goes by Dick)

"Iowa, County Births, 1880-1935," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XVXJ-5TB : 1 April 2020), Richard H. Johnson in entry for Virginia Ione Johnson, 16 Mar 1912; citing Iowa, United States; county district courts, Iowa; FHL microfilm 1,035,143.

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M9LL-12V : accessed 10 July 2020), Richard H Johnson, Washington Township Gravity town, Taylor, Iowa, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 129, sheet 4A, family 71, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,461.

"Iowa State Census, 1905," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVM5-KSFC : 16 March 2018), Richard H Johnson, Taylor, Iowa, United States; citing card #51, State Historical Department, Des Moines; FHL microfilm 1,430,646.

"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDMV-H3D : accessed 10 July 2020), Dick H Johnston, Washington, Taylor, Iowa, United States; citing ED 154, sheet 4B, line 64, family 120, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 514; FHL microfilm 1,820,514.

Appears he has a Family Search profile:

https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/sources/LR44-LKY

by Scott Fulkerson G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
selected by Carol Baldwin
Born 23 December 1862 - Tennessee, United States

Died 5 June 1933 - Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa, United States

Married Jeanette "Nettie" Burton in Hoopeston, Vermillion, Illinois, United States on 7 September 1893.

Appears they had at least 6 children:

Francis Pearl Johnson - born 1894 in Iowa

Adam Burton Johnson - born 1896 in Iowa

Raleigh Reese Johnson - born 1899 in Iowa

Roscoe Irving Johnson - born 1901 in Iowa

Lulu Merle Johnson - born 1907 in Iowa

Virginia Iona Johnson - born 1912 in Iowa
Looks like Mom died 1932 - Dad died 1933.

Had to be rough on her to go off to college and while gone to lose both parents.

Possible candidates for 1880 Census?

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDLK-F19 : 14 August 2017), Richard Jr Johnson in household of Richard Johnson, Keosauqua, Van Buren, Iowa, United States; citing enumeration district ED 29, sheet 414B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,367.

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDWV-MN9 : 15 July 2017), Richard Johnson in household of William Johnson, District 2, Wayne, Tennessee, United States; citing enumeration district ED 162, sheet 17C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,284.

Or 1870?

"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MXWL-4P7 : 18 March 2020), Richard Johnson in entry for Jep Johnson, 1870.

"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MF39-ZH8 : 19 March 2020), Richard Johnson in entry for Joe Johnson, 1870.

"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MXFZ-5MX : 19 March 2020), Richard E Johnson in entry for Sarah Johnson, 1870.

If I was going to pick one, it might be this one for 1880 Census:

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDWV-MN9 : 15 July 2017), Richard Johnson in household of William Johnson, District 2, Wayne, Tennessee, United States; citing enumeration district ED 162, sheet 17C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,284.

And I think it would be the wrong one... see the mother on the death record? It matches the Census into... too bad.

"Tennessee Deaths, 1914-1966," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NSJC-G8N : 26 August 2019), R. J. Johnson, 7 Sep 1925; Death, Luther, Hancock, Tennessee, United States, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville.

Thanks! Looks like you are all set for the Connectathon with all these sources!
It does look like on the 1900 Census that he was living next door to his slightly older brother, W Henry Johnson (age 39 - so born circa 1861). That's a pretty good clue towards finding parents (or grandparents for Lulu).

Looks like in 1900, both him and his brother were farmers. They were living in Washington Township, Taylor County, Iowa, which is in Southwest Iowa in the middle of farm land and not a whole lot else. The nearest tiny town was called Gravity. From wiki's description of Gravity, it popped up on the radar in 1883 when the railroad came through. There was a surge in population from 1890 - 210 people to 1900 - a whopping 549 people! Not sure if this counts the people in the surrounding farmland, but likely not. According to the Census, the Johnson brothers owned this farm, and from what I can tell, they were the only black families in the area. It must have created an interesting atmosphere, since there were still segregation laws in place even though they were no longer slaves or at risk of being put back into slavery, yet being surrounded by a large percentage of white farm owners may have been a bit intimidating. At the same time, it probably forced them to make new friends, forge relationships that they may have never had the opportunity otherwise, and hopefully work through some things that even today some cities and people are struggling with today.

By 1910, it seems that Richard may have sold his farm (not sure who he sold it to) and opened his own Barber Shop in Gravity. I searched the entire 10 pages for the Gravity 1910 Census and could find no other black family living in Gravity, and I didn't even see his brother there either.

By 1920, Richard and his wife, and his two youngest daughters are back out in Washington Township (likely just northwest of Gravity) and working on a family-owned Farm again. Lula/Lulu is 12 at this point. Again, they are surrounded by a white community with few other black families listed anywhere. There is a Fred Johnson living not terribly far away (age 31 - so born 1889/1890). Fred is working as a Mail Carrier. Fred appears to have been his brother's son, so Dick would have been his Uncle living down the road from him.

By 1930, Richard had moved back into Gravity and re-opened a Barber Shop again. He's living alone, so I'm not sure where his wife is at this point.

Looking backwards a bit, it appears his family moved to Gravity as far back as 1885.

"Iowa State Census, 1885," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:H4J3-CW2 : 2 December 2019), Richard Johnson in household of Adams Johnson, Gravity, Washington, Taylor, Iowa; citing p. 25, 1885, State Historical Society, Des Moines; FHL microfilm 1,020,186.

Father's name is Adams. I see his brother Henry on this 1885 Census. Mother appears to be Martha.

1880 Census, they were living in Knox County, Illinois.

Wow! Thank you so much for all of this and for adding profiles for her parents and sister, as well as editing her profile.
+6 votes

Name: Lula M Johnson

Age: 17

Birth Year: abt 1908

Birth Place: Iowa

Residence Date: 1 Jan 1925

Residence Place: Gravity, Taylor, Iowa, USA

Race: Black

Gender: Female

Relation to Head: Daughter

Marital status: Single

Father: Richord H Johnson

[R H Johnson] 

Father Birth Place: Tennessee

Mother: Jeamett Burton

[Jeannett Johnson] 

Mother Age: 50

Mother Birth Year: abt 1875

Mother Birth Place: Illinois

Parents' Marriage Place: Illinois

Neighbors: View others on page

Household Members:

Name Age

R H Johnson 62

Jeannett Johnson 50

Lula M Johnson 17

Virgmia J Johnson 12

Faye C Martin 33

Letha Mcneese 21

Source Information

Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.

by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Thanks!
I tried searching for her in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Chicago as well but no luck.
Thanks! I have been trying Alabama for 1940 and haven't found her there. But I was having little luck in general today, while others [like you] found records.
+2 votes
OK - I've given her some family (may still add more of her siblings when I get the chance) and written her a biography. Since there's no evidence of marriage or children, I can only presume she never married. I could not find any evidence of a grave site, so again, I can only presume that there isn't one (although it's still possible we may come across one).

Please feel free to update, clean up, or even remove whatever needs cleaning on her biography, as I'm not attached to it nor will it hurt my feelings if someone improves upon it. Bios are not my strong suit, but I can write them when necessary.

Thanks!
by Scott Fulkerson G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
I think it looks great! Thank you

Related questions

+5 votes
1 answer
85 views asked Aug 26, 2020 in Genealogy Help by Leslie Schwalm G2G Rookie (280 points)
+5 votes
1 answer
+3 votes
3 answers
121 views asked Sep 23, 2020 in The Tree House by Kelly Kersey G2G6 Mach 1 (10.6k points)
+5 votes
1 answer

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright

...