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Robert C. Johnson, Jr.

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Information about Robert C. Johnson, Jr.

Profile image of Robert C. Johnson, Jr.

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
LawMakers
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
Africana Studies Professor
Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Vermont; Treasure Beach, Jamaica
Favorite Quote:
The Power Of The People Is Greater Than The Man’s Technology

Birthplace

Born:
5/13/1948
Birth Location:
Summit, Tennessee

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
LawMakers
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
Africana Studies Professor
Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Vermont; Treasure Beach, Jamaica
Favorite Quote:
The Power Of The People Is Greater Than The Man’s Technology

Birthplace

Born:
5/13/1948
Birth Location:
Summit
See how Robert C. Johnson, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Africana studies professor, lawyer and playwright Robert C. Johnson was born in Summit, Tennessee near Chattanooga on May 13, 1948 and moved with his family to Boston, Massachusetts at age thirteen. After struggling in Boston public schools, he transferred to the prestigious private school, the Commonwealth School. There he excelled under the mentorship of Charles E, Merrill, Jr., the founder and headmaster. At Commonwealth, Johnson participated in extracurricular activities and began writing plays. He received a B.A. degree in political studies from Bowdoin College in 1971 and a Watson Fellowship to write plays and study African American immigrants in East Africa. Johnson earned a M.A. degree in Africana Studies in 1975 and his J.D. degree in 1977, both from Cornell University. As a law student, he worked on the defense team for prisoners implicated in the Attica Prison riots and he later, developed an educational program at Auburn Prison in Auburn, New York.

From 1977 to 1978, Johnson worked as an affirmative action officer for the Massachusetts Board of Community Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He left affirmative action work to practice employment and criminal law with his law partner, Eddie Jenkins, Jr. After a heart attack in 1992, Johnson stepped back from his law practice and became an Africana Studies professor at University of Massachusetts at Boston. Johnson has published extensively in the field of African American history. Most notable among his books are Why Blacks Left America for Africa: Interviews with Black Expatriates, 1971-1999 and Nantucket's People of Color: Essays on History, Politics, and Community. As a playwright Johnson has documented the African American experience with dramas such as Scag, Stop and Frisk and Mama G

Johnson has been involved with many community projects and philanthropic organizations including the “The African Diaspora Program” an after school development program for African American youth in Boston and the United South End Settlements' Harriet Tubman House. Johnson has been married to Amy Merrill, the daughter of his mentor Charles E. Merrill, Jr., for over ten years. He has two children, Gary Weldon and Amika Ama.

Robert C. Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 7, 2006.

See how Robert C. Johnson, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert C. Johnson, Jr.'s interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his middle name
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. recalls moving from Summit, Tennessee to Boston, Massachusetts with his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his early childhood in Summit, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes annual family reunions
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about researching his mother's family background
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about researching his father's family background
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. recalls his earliest childhood memories of Summit, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Summit, Tennessee and Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his year at the Dwight School in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his years at the Charles E. Mackey School in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about English High School of Boston, Massachusetts, and entering the ABC (A Better Chance) program
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes attending the Commonwealth School in Boston, Massachusetts, through the ABC (A Better Chance) Program
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his first play, 'Coffee and Sour Cream'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about riots in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts after the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his decision to attend Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his years at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his 1971 trip to East Africa through the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. recounts his decision to attend law school at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his activism at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about working on the 1971 Attica Prison rioters' legal defense with W. Haywood Burns and HistoryMaker Howard Moore, Jr.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes working at the Massachusetts Board of Regional Community Colleges as an affirmative action officer
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about entering private practice with HistoryMaker Eddie Jenkins, Jr.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his community and public service with HistoryMakers Eddie Jenkins, Jr. and Charles "Chuck" Turner
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his mentally-ill son's 1991 arrest, which inspired his play 'Stop and Frisk'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his plays
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his photography, vintage car restoration, and trips to Vermont and Treasure Beach, Jamaica
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes teaching at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his book, 'Shona,' and his work to exonerate Ndume Olatushani in Tennessee
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his published works
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes working with the University of Massachusetts Boston's Africana Studies department
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. reflects upon his interracial marriage to playwright Amy Merrill
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community and about how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. narrates his photographs