This past month, we mourned the loss of Mrs. Emma L. Johnston, an original founder of PEACE, Inc., member and leader of many local civil rights/advocacy organizations, and pillar of the community. She passed October 31 at Crouse Hospital after a long illness. She was 86.
Arriving to Syracuse from the South in 1963, Mrs. Johnston’s firsthand experiences with housing discrimination led her to become a passionate voice against all forms of injustice in our community. As she reflected in an interview with PEACE, Inc., Mrs. Johnston wanted to know why “I came from the South and got more discrimination here than I had in the South.”
Joining the NAACP and the precursor to PEACE, Inc., Crusade for Opportunity, Mrs. Johnston cofounded and served PEACE, Inc. in a number of leadership positions for more than 50 years. In recognition for her service to the community, PEACE, Inc.’s Southside Family Resource Center was renamed to honor her legacy of service.
Perhaps former Executive Director Joseph E. O’Hara’s description of Mrs. Johnston and her contributions to the agency sums it best, “She’s our Rosa Parks. She’s just a very classy person who is going to seek fairness, justice and equal opportunity every waking moment.”
In this interview from 2017, Mrs. Johnston reflected on her cofounding of PEACE, Inc., her more than 50 years of participation and leadership with the agency, and her thoughts about the state of the community.