John “Jack” Johnson was born on August 17, 1909, in the red clay hills of Shubuta Mississippi. His grandmother was a former slave, and his parents maintained an independent 150 acre farm (http://www.stjohnscogicalbanyny.com).
Jim Crow south held African Americans in second-class citizenship and denied them human rights, legal protections, voting rights, economic opportunity and basic dignities. Many sought escape from these oppressions to seek safety, jobs, freedom, economic opportunity and justice. The Great Migration of African Americans from the south to cities of the north, northwest, Midwest, west cost and elsewhere started roughly before WWI and lasted until the early 1970s. Millions of African Americans left the south for the aforementioned reasons.
Many had to sneak away from their sharecropper and peonage stations for fear of violent harm by the white establishment. Men like Louis Parson, a part-time preacher, from Buckatunna, Mississippi came to Albany seeking a better life. Elder Parson would return to Shubuta Mississippi and surrounding areas to recruit members for his Albany congregation. One of the men he brought back in the early 1930s was John Johnson (Lemak pp 58-61).
Johnson established his own congregation, St. John's Church of God In Christ (COGIC). By 1954 Elder "Jack" or "Brother Jack" thriving church. In 1974 they congregation purchased the former Beth Emeth Synagogue at 94 Herkimer Street and it became their place of worship until 2013.
Elder Jack was greatly involved in traveling to places like Shubuta Mississippi to bring families back to Albany just as Louis Parson had done. He brought so many families here that the city officials asked him to cease and desist. He purchased many properties on Green Street and would house the recent arrivals and help them find work to get them started. His church established the first all day daycare center for families in the South End.