Carl Braden (June 24, 1914 – February 8, 1975) was a left-wing trade unionist and social justice activist, born in New Albany, Indiana, and died in Louisville, Kentucky. He worked for the Louisville Herald-Post, The Cincinnati Enquirer (1937–45), and The Louisville Times. He also wrote for other news services including The Harlan Daily Enterprise, the Knoxville Journal, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Newsweek, and the Federated Press.
In 1948, while working as a reporter in Kentucky, he met and married fellow journalist Anne Gambrell McCarty. The Bradens had three children: James, born in 1951, a 1972 Rhodes Scholar, and a 1980 graduate of Harvard Law School (where he preceded Barack Obama as editor of the Harvard Law Review), has lived and practiced law for over 25 years in San Francisco, California. Elizabeth, born in 1960, has worked as a teacher in many countries around the world, serving as of 2006 in that capacity in rural Ethiopia. Anita, born in 1953, died of a pulmonary disorder at the age of 11.
While raising their children, Carl and his wife Anne Braden remained deeply involved in the civil rights cause and the subsequent social movements it prompted from the 1960s to the 1970s, because of this they were frequent targets for attacks from southern white supremacists.
In 1954, as a method of protesting the rigid practice of racial segregation in neighborhoods, the Bradens arranged to purchase a house in an all-white neighborhood of Louisville and deed it over to Andrew Wade and his wife Charlotte, who were African-American. White segregationists lashed out – initially by shooting out the windows of the house and burning a cross in front of it – and finally drove the Wades out of the home by bombing it. Carl's wife, Anne, carefully chronicled the ordeal and used it as the basis for her book The Wall Between, published in 1958. As a result of their actions, Carl Braden was charged with sedition, since working for racial integration was interpreted by many southern whites as an outright sign of communist support. He was sentenced to 15 years and ended up serving eight months before he was released on the highest bond ever set in Kentucky up to that time.
In 1967, the Bradens were again charged with sedition for protesting the practice of strip-mining in Pike County, Kentucky. They used this case to test the Kentucky sedition law, which was eventually ruled unconstitutional.
The Bradens dedicated their lives to impelling whites into the cause of justice for all people. After Carl's death, Anne Braden remained active in networks of anti-racist work.
In 1948, Carl Braden along with his wife Anne involved themselves in Henry Wallace's run on the Progressive Party for the presidency. Soon after Wallace's defeat, they left mainstream journalism to apply their talent as writers to the interracial left wing of the labor movement through the FE (Farm and Equipment Workers) Union, representing Louisville's International Harvester employees, Catherine Fosl, Subversive Southerner (Palgrave, 2002).
The Bradens were blacklisted from local employment in Kentucky. They took jobs as field organizers for the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), developing their own media attention through SCEF's monthly newspaper, The Southern Patriot, and through numerous pamphlets and press releases publicizing major civil-rights campaigns. The Bradens were acclaimed by young student activists of the 1960s and among the Civil Rights Movement's most dedicated white allies.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference hosted a reception honoring Frank Wilkinson and Carl Braden on April 30, 1961, the day before they went to jail for defying the House Un-American Activities Committee. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. James Dombrowski were present at this reception honoring Wilkinson and Braden.
Carl Braden died on February 8, 1975, and is buried in Eminence Cemetery in Henry County, Eminence, Kentucky.