Juanita Johnson was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1933. She graduated from Second Ward High School in 1950, and then enrolled at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, where she studied to be a dental hygienist.
Johnson enlisted in the WAC in Fall 1952 in Charlotte. She was sent for basic training at Fort Lee, New Jersey. She was then transferred to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where she worked as a dental hygienist. Johnson was discharged early in August 1954 to return to school.
Following her discharge, Johnson attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, then Albany State University in Georgia. She graduated with a degree in elementary education. After teaching for seven years in Georgia, she enrolled at the University of Georgia where she earned her masters in education. Johnson returned to Charlotte and continued teaching. In 1983 she received her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in curriculum and teaching.