Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: Charles Johnson on Black America in the 21st Century

January 10th, 2010 by Ajuan Mance


Charles Johnson (b. 1948)

(Source: University Week)


When we have the first black president of the United States of America, who is sworn to serve all people, it’s a whole different cultural moment. The NAACP and some of the other organizations … I’m not going to say they’re locked in the past, but I will say that their hour of necessity is not the same as it was in the ‘30s and ‘40s. We [black people] have internal questions that must be addressed. I think those are properly the territory of the NAACP, the Urban League and all of our organizations. We’re looking at two black Americas right now. We have black people who are billionaires. Oprah Winfrey has her own network. We have black people all over every area you can conceivably think of. At the same time, we have these egregious situations, a lot of which focus on black males. Black male culture catches up to many kids by the time they’re 8 years old. There’s a lot of cleaning up we have to do in the 21st century if we wish to survive competitively as a people in a global, knowledge-based economy. We’re not just competing with white people in America anymore. We’re competing with people in India and China for jobs. There’s an awful lot that has to be done, and it’s all about education. It’s an interesting moment.

from “The Root Interview: Charles Johnson,” by Michael E. Ross, published on


Biographical Notes: Winner of the 1990 National Book Award for his groundbreaking novel, Middle Passage, Charles Johnson holds a B.S. and an M.A., both from Southern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the State University of New York at Stonybrook.

The Pollock Professor of English at the University of Washington, Johnson is the author of 16 books, including the novels Middle Passage, Oxherding Tale, and Faith and the Good Thing. In 1998 Johnson was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius prize.” He has also been the recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships. A cartoonist and screenwriter as well as a novelist, Johnson has published two collections of his humorous drawings and more than 20 screenplays.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Current Events, Higher Education, race

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