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Charles Johnson

“The Apocalypse would definitely put a crimp in my career plans.” (Charles R. Johnson, Middle Passage)

Charles Johnson is the author of four novels, including Oxherding Tale (1982) and Middle Passage (1990); three collection of short stories, including Dr. King’s Refrigerator and Other Bedtime Stories (2005); and a work of aesthetics, Being and Race: Black Writing Since 1970 (1988), among many other works. As a cartoonist and journalist in the early 1970s, Johnson published over 1000 drawings in national publications, a selection of which appears in Humor Me: An Anthology of Humor by Writers of Color by John McNally (University of Iowa, 2002). In 2003, he published Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing (Scribner), and in 2004, Passing the Three Gates: Interviews with Charles Johnson, edited by Dr. James McWilliams (University of Washington Press). In 2007, Johnson co-authored with Bob Adelman Mine Eyes Have Seen: Bearing Witness to the Struggle for Civil Rights (Time-Life Books), and in 2008 Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr: 40 Years Later, His Life and Crusade in Pictures (Time/Life Books).

Johnson holds a doctorate in philosophy and his numerous honors include fellowships and prizes from the MacArthur Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novel Middle Passage won the 1990 National Book Award, making him  the first African-American male to win this prize since Ralph Ellison in 1953. His short fiction is included in the O’Henry Prize Stories (1993), Best American Short Stories (1992), Best American Short Stories of the Eighties, and he was named in a survey conducted by the University of Southern California to be one of the ten best short story writers in America; and his short fiction and essays are much anthologized. In 2003, he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

A former director of the creative writing program at the University of Washington, Johnson held the S. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Professorship for Excellence in English (the first chair in writing at UW), and currently teaches fiction.

Online Resources

Charles Johnson’s website