Marilyn Johnson, former vice president of marketing at IBM, spoke to the Killeen chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Friday — the first day of Black History Month — about empowering black women in America.

In 1971, when Johnson was 18 years old, Congress passed the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted U.S. citizens 18 years or older the right to vote.

While studying the significance of the amendment in college, she learned that many more changes in the country had to take place before she was given the right to vote.

Both the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the U.S., and the 19th Amendment, which established women’s suffrage, were the result of brave souls that came before her, Johnson said.

“I remember thinking how I had to have been in the exact right time,” Johnson said, before the crowd at Greater Vision Community Church in Killeen.

“I thought, ‘I’m 18 years old, I’m black’ and I was a woman benefitting from the suffrage movement.”

As a leader in the National Council for Negro Women, Johnson spoke at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.

A resident of Austin, she lauded the bright future of Texas and its ability to make other states across the nation better.

“I want this pearl of a state in the center of this country to continue to shine,” Johnson said. “But we’ve got a long road ahead of us and a responsibility to the rights and the legacy.”

In her experience as chief executive of one of the world’s largest technology companies, where she worked for 35 years, she was able to see 36 countries and travel more than 4 million miles, she said.

“We’ve got to start building alliances,” Johnson said. “Alliances have to exist for a nation to grow.”

The NAACP-sponsored program was attended by many local officials, including Killeen Councilmen Jonathan Okray, Jared Foster and Terry Clark and Mayor Dan Corbin.

During a short presentation, Corbin outlined the timeline of black history in the city, starting from the first black troops to arrive at Camp Hood in 1943 to the election of the first black mayor in 2006.

“Killeen has a great history,” Corbin said. “I’m not saying we have come as far as we can go, but we’ve come a long way.”

Contact Brandon Janes at or (254) 501-7552

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