Research compiled by: Shane M., Eh Ree T., and Ty'Asia B.
Omaha has a long, notorious history of racial segregation. While segregated education had legally ended in 1954 and the Civil Rights Movement had begun to subside on the national stage by 1970, African Americans in Omaha continued to face de facto discrimination in housing, employment, education, and social spheres. Dorothy Eure and Lerlean Johnson, both African American women, dedicated their lives to combatting inequality as well as celebrating their cultural heritage. Eure and Johnson were two of seven women to sue the Omaha Public School District in 1973, which led to limited busing, an attempt to increase integration in the district, in 1976. The busing program ended in 1999 despite testimony from numerous African Americans that it had increased academic achievement and improved race relations in Omaha.
Both Eure and Johnson also worked at the Legal Aid Society of Nebraska, fighting on behalf of the underprivileged for suitable housing and Social Security benefits. Eure served a critical role in organizing demonstrations at City Hall against redlining. Eure, along with her sons, also founded the Afro Academy of Dramatic Arts, which offered African Americans an outlet for participating in the arts as well as entertainment for residents of North Omaha.
The students who studied Eure and Johnson had the privilege of interviewing one of each of their sons, both of whom are immensely proud of their mothers’ work. Ironically, the portion of 30th Street chosen to honor Eure and Johnson runs directly in front of the OPS administration building, the very entity that was their adversary for so long; this was not a point of contention in Lerlean Johnson’s eyes at the time of the street’s dedication, however.
Although the city of Omaha has not yet conquered the issue of segregation in many areas, these women had the courage to take crucial steps toward the pursuit of equality that continues to this day. Dorothy Eure and Lerlean Johnson had a profound impact on their city, despite the additional challenges they faced in the political sphere as minorities and women. They serve as excellent examples of political activists dedicated to the empowerment of the African American community in Omaha.
Baker, Jodi. "Omaha Street Renamed After Civil Rights Pioneers." WOWT.com. 03 Aug. 2009. Web 15 July 2015.
Eure, Darryl. Application for Commemorative Name. 09 Apr. 2009. Planning Department, Omaha, Nebraska.
"Interview with Darryl Eure." Personal Interview. 21 July 2015.
"Interview with A'Jamal Rashad Byndon." Personal Interview. 20 July 2015.
Smith, Alonzo N. Black Nebraskans: Interviews from the Nebraska Black Oral History Project II. Nebraska Committee for the Humanities, 1982.
United States of America v. The School District of Omaha, State of Nebraksa. LexisNexis. United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. 15 Oct. 1974. Print.
"My best experience here has been making new friends, learning new things about Omaha's history, having fun, and working with my group. "
"I've learned many things during the summer program. One thing I learned about was interviewing people and learning about the histories behind Omaha. Now when I go down a road and see a street sign, I won't think its just a simple street sign; it could be a street sign with history behind it."
-Eh Ree T.
"I have learned that many things started in Omaha and many things happened in Omaha. The history is more exciting than I thought, and I appreciate Omaha's history more. It was a cool experience to actually get to interview the people who experienced the history."