Civil Rights leader's son not satisfied with plaza

Johnnie Johnson, Jr. is cosidered a Civil Rights leader in Albany / File

In 1972, Johnnie Johnson Jr., walked off his job with the city's Public Works department in protest of the way African Americans were being treated in Albany.

"In 1972 they had separate Christmas parties, they had separate restrooms, separate water fountains, and blacks were being paid at a much lower rate than whites doing the same job. Blacks were not even able to run or apply to supervisory type jobs, nor were they able to run for government positions," says Pastor Yaz Johnson, Johnnie Johnson's son.

260 employees followed Johnson's actions and he later filed a lawsuit against the city. He won that fight four years later, but not without struggle.

"My father sacrificed. He sacrificed his job, he sacrificed his livelihood," says Johnson.

And rightfully so, Johnson's son, Pastor Yaz Johnson wants to see his father memorialized in some way.

Johnson wanted to see his father's name put on the new Broad Avenue bridge, but city and state leaders are set to commission it to war veterans. Then commissioner Chris Pike suggested the plaza in front of the government center, including the water fountain. But Johnson says he wants nothing to do with it.

"The water fountain or whatever it is out there, that was, to me, a very undeserving proposal," says Johnson.

Ward 6 commissioner Tommie Postell has worked with Johnson to see his dream realized.

"And it is beneficial for him and his family to have some kind of accolades put there but I think he needs to understand that if he keeps refusing things that we offer, it's gonna take some time," says Postell.

According to Postell, Johnson first wanted the police department building and the city said no. The city offered a park, Johnson said no. And some may ask, what's wrong with the plaza and fountain?

"Understand, it is not the mere fact of a building or a bridge but the purpose of having something of a great magnitude to represent what my father did."

But he and the city just aren't seeing eye-to-eye.

"It's almost like a rock and a hard place," remarks Postell.

City leaders say they'll continue working with Johnson.

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