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Willard Johnson

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Information about Willard Johnson

Profile image of Willard Johnson

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Political Science Professor
Genealogist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Brown
Favorite Food:
Peas (Black-Eyed)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Mexico, Caribbean
Favorite Quote:
You Can Do Better.

Birthplace

Born:
11/22/1935
Birth Location:
St. Louis, Missouri

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Political Science Professor
Genealogist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Brown
Favorite Food:
Peas (Black-Eyed)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Mexico, Caribbean
Favorite Quote:
You Can Do Better.

Birthplace

Born:
11/22/1935
Birth Location:
St. Louis
See how Willard Johnson is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Willard R. Johnson is professor emeritus of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). For over thirty years (1964-1996), his academic focus was on international relations and development policies and institutions with an emphasis on Africa. Throughout his career, he combined scholarship and teaching with political activism. In addition to African studies and comparative politics, he devoted energy and time to the economic development of inner city America. Johnson was a core leader in the creation of TransAfrica, a national lobbying group for African liberation and support.

Johnson was born in 1935 in St. Louis, Missouri. Both of his parents were born in Kansas. His father was a bacteriologist with the U.S. Public Health Service, which led the family to move several times as his father’s career advanced. His family included a brother and twin sisters. They moved to Tuskegee, Alabama, and then to Pasadena, California, in 1946, where Johnson joined the Pasadena Boys’ Club. Johnson graduated from Muir High School in Pasadena and went on to receive his B.A. degree in international relations at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he was president of the student body during his senior year. At UCLA, he was a founding member of a chapter of the NAACP, which brought W.E.B. DuBois to the UCLA campus as a speaker. Johnson received his M.A. degree in African Studies with distinction from John Hopkins School of International Studies and his Ph.D. degree from Harvard University. His dissertation was on “Cameroon Reunification: The Political Union of Several Africas.” In 1964, he was appointed Assistant Professor of political science at MIT.

In 1966, Johnson returned to Cameron to extend his research and then turned his Harvard dissertation into a book, The Cameroon Federation, that was published by Princeton University Press. On leave from MIT from 1968 to 1970, he helped to establish and served as the executive director of a community-owned, non-profit economic development promotion complex, Circle, Inc., in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. Circle included a small business development center, an investment fund, a management-training institute and a consulting firm.

In 1972, Johnson directed the Africa Policy Task Force for the George McGovern for President committee. During the 1970s, he served on the Democratic Party Advisory Council’s Foreign Affairs Study Group. His earlier public service included two terms on the U.S. National Committee for UNESCO.

Johnson was one of the founders and senior advisors to the Boston Pan-African Forum, Inc. He led the Boston unit of TransAfrica in its “Free South Africa Movement” campaign, making the banning of South African Kruggerrand coins part of the anti-apartheid agenda of the U.S.

In 1991, Johnson founded and now directs the Kansas Institute for African American and Native American Family History (KIAANAFH). The Institute promotes the preservation, documentation and appreciation of family identity, traditions and achievements of members of African American and Native American communities of the Midwest. The Black History Bulletin (Jan. – Dec. 2001, Vol. 64) carries an article by Johnson on “The Great Escape” of Indians and Blacks into Kansas during 1861 and 1862.

Johnson co-authored with his wife, Dr. Vivian Johnson (whom he met as a UCLA student), West African Governments and Volunteer Development Organizations: Priorities for Partnership. The Johnsons, residents of Newton, Massachusetts, are the parents of two married daughters, Kimberley Johnson Ogadhoh, born in 1963, and Caryn Johnson, born in 1960.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willard Johnson's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willard Johnson lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willard Johnson describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willard Johnson describes his mother's personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willard Johnson describes his maternal grandfather's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willard Johnson describes his maternal grandmother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willard Johnson describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willard Johnson describes his father's career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Willard Johnson describes his paternal grandparents' family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willard Johnson describes his paternal grandparent's family background, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willard Johnson describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willard Johnson remembers his elementary school and George Washington Carver's funeral
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willard Johnson recalls his move to Pasadena, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willard Johnson recalls George Washington Junior High School and John Muir Junior College
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willard Johnson describes his involvement with the Boys Club of Pasadena
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willard Johnson describes his family's religious outlook
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willard Johnson recalls influential teachers and mentors in Pasadena, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willard Johnson describes his high school jobs and interest in political science
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willard Johnson recalls the University of California, Los Angeles during the Cold War
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willard Johnson recalls his campaign for student body president in college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willard Johnson describes his job at the National Student Association
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willard Johnson describes his time at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Harvard University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willard Johnson recalls his time in Cameroon, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willard Johnson recalls his time in Cameroon, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willard Johnson describes his positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willard Johnson recalls the creation of the Circle, Inc.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willard Johnson recalls receiving tenure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willard Johnson recalls his studies on the African-Arab Cooperation program
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willard Johnson describes his work with the TransAfrica Forum
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willard Johnson describes the African Heritage Studies Association
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willard Johnson recalls launching TransAfrica as a general lobby in 1977
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willard Johnson describes the movement to boycott the Krugerrand coin
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Willard Johnson remembers Nelson Mandela's visit to Boston
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Willard Johnson describes the Kansas Institute for African American and Native American Family History
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Willard Johnson reflects upon the connection between African Americans and Native Americans
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Willard Johnson describes the history of the Trail of Tears
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Willard Johnson talks about 'Tracing Trails of Blood on Ice,' pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Willard Johnson talks about 'Tracing Trails of Blood on Ice,' pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Willard Johnson reflects upon the Freedman Roll and black Native Americans
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Willard Johnson reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Willard Johnson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Willard Johnson describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Willard Johnson narrates his photographs