The papers of award-winning author and Evanston native Charles Johnson have been acquired by Washington University in St. Louis, the school recently announced. The archival collection of documents related to the life and work of Dr Johnson is currently being processed and will be open to the public later this year or in early 2022.
The acquisition represents “an important addition to the material in the university’s special collections department,” said Joel Minor, curator of collections / manuscripts of modern literature.
Dr Johnson is a famous cartoonist, longtime educator and award-winning author of fiction, essays and screenplays. In his work he often tackles issues of race and cultural identity, incorporating both Eastern and Western philosophy, folklore, spirituality, history, humor and expert storytelling.
Spanning nearly six decades, the collection brings together manuscripts, drafts, correspondence, works of art and ephemeral documents and is a testament to Dr Johnson’s vast career as a public intellectual.
Dr Johnson grew up in Evanston and attended Evanston Township High School, where he drew editorials and other cartoons for The Evanstonian, the school newspaper. He went on to produce two cartoon collections, “Black Humor” (1970) and “Half-Past Nation-Time” (1972), and went on to create and host the nationally broadcast PBS television show “Charlie’s Pad “, a series on the profession of comics broadcast from 1970 to 1980.
Dr Johnson, who received his doctorate. in Philosophy at Stony Brook University, is the author of many acclaimed works of fiction and non-fiction. Her short story collection “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was nominated for the 1987 PEN / Faulkner Award for Fiction. “Middle Passage,” her 1990 novel, won the National Book Award. Dr Johnson was one of 12 black authors (including Maya Angelou and Rita Dove) commemorated on a series of stamps issued in Ghana and Uganda in 1997.
“Finding the perfect home for 56 years of creative work is a rare opportunity and a unique experience for any author or artist,” says Dr Johnson. “So I feel extremely lucky that my papers have this home in such a distinguished school as the University of Washington.”
Dr Johnson received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1998. In 2002 he received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature. He is professor emeritus at the University of Washington, where he began teaching in 1976.
“We are delighted to be managing the Charles Johnson Papers,” says Nadia Ghasedi, Associate University Librarian for the Special Collections Services Division of University of Washington Libraries. “Our faculty and students, as well as the public, will greatly benefit from having access to the work of such an influential writer and illustrator. As an African American, Johnson brings an essential perspective that was lacking in our collection of modern literature.
The Charles Johnson Papers will be included in the Modern Literature Collections and in the Collections of the DB Dowd Modern Graphic History Library. The University of Washington has a distinguished collection of articles by famous writers, including Joy Williams, William Gass, Stanley Elkin, William Gaddis, James Merrill, Howard Nemerov, and Mary Jo Bang, who are on faculty there. Additionally, partial collections include papers from Tennessee Williams, who attended school; TS Elliot, whose grandfather was one of the founders of the school; and Samuel Beckett.