Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Charles Johnson  

Pen Name: 


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1948 in Evanston, Illinois

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-- Charles Johnson on WorldCat --

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Illinois Connection

Charles was born in Evanston and he attended Southern Illinois University.

Biographical and Professional Information

A writer, scholar and cartoonist, Johnson received his B.S. and M.A. from Southern Illinois University in 1971 and 1973 and his Ph.D. in philosophy from SUNY-Stony Brook in 1988.Recently retired, Johnson was the S. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Endowed Professor of English at the University of Washington. While there, he also was the former director of the creative writing program at the University of Washington. He also served as fiction editor for the ''Seattle Review'' from l978-98.In his novels, ''Dreamer'' and ''Middle Passage'', Johnson directly addressed the issues of black life in America.Johnson sponsors the ''Marie Clair Davis Award in Creative Writing'', given to a secondary student at Evanston Township High School, and the ''Charles Johnson Student Fiction Award'', a national contest, at Southern Illinois University.

Selected Titles At Your Library

Faith and the good thing /
ISBN: 0743212541. OCLC Number:

Scribner Paperback Fiction,. New York :. 2001.

Faith Cross, a beautiful and purely innocent young black woman, is told by her dying mother to go and get herself "a good thing." Thus begins an extraordinary pilgrim's progress that takes Faith from the magic and mysticism of the rural South to the promises and perils of modern-day Chicago.

Oxherding tale /
ISBN: 0743264495. OCLC Number:

Scribner,. New York :. 2005.

"Through sexual escapades, picaresque adventures, and philosophical inquiry, Hawkins navigates white and black worlds and comments wryly on human nature along the way. Told with pure genius, Oxherding Tale is a deliciously funny, bitterly ironic account of slavery, racism, and the human spirit; and it reveals the author as a great talent with even greater humanity"--Publisher's description.

Middle passage /
ISBN: 0684855887. OCLC Number:

Atheneum,. New York :. 1990.

A freed slave escapes his bad debts in New Orleans by stowing away on a slave ship en route to Africa.

Dreamer :
ISBN: 0684854430. OCLC Number:

Scribner,. New York :. ©1998.

On the road with Martin Luther King, his wife and his two assistants. One is a look-alike decoy, a Korean War veteran who considers the pacifism of the civil rights movement naive. The novel describes harrowing scenes at the receiving end of hate. By the author of Middle Passage.

Africans in America :
ISBN: 0156008548. OCLC Number:

Harcourt Brace,. San Diego :. 1999.

A narrative history of America, from the 1607 landing in Jamestown to the brink of the Civil War, Africans in America tells the shared history of Africans and Europeans as seen through the lens of slavery. It is told from the point of view of the Africans who arrived in shackles and endured the terrible dichotomy of this new land founded on the ideal of liberty but dedicated to the perpetuation of slavery. Meticulously researched, this book weaves together the experiences of the colonists, slaves, free and fugitive blacks, and abolitionists to present an original document.

King :
ISBN: 0670892165. OCLC Number:

Viking Studio,. New York :. 2000.

"King is the first true photobiography of a hero's journey. Never before has Martin Luther King's life been so richly chronicled from so many different points of view. A powerful array of photographic images combined with text by writer Charles Johnson, a National Book Award winner, detail the pivotal events of King's public life - as well as life with his family - in a rich and stirring format. Johnson writes, "How soon we forget that King was not only a civil rights activist, but also this country's preeminent moral philosopher, a spiritual aspirant, a father and husband, and that these diverse roles - these multiple dimensions of his too brief life - were the foundations for his singular 'dream' that inspired millions worldwide." Here, then, we see Martin Luther King, Jr., in all his aspects: as husband and father, powerful preacher, courageous leader of the civil rights movement, martyr for the cause of racial justice, and finally American icon."--Jacket.

Soulcatcher and other stories /
ISBN: 0156011123. OCLC Number:

Harcourt,. San Diego :. ©2001.

"Nothing has had as profound an effect on American life as slavery. For blacks and whites alike, the experience has left us with a conflicted and contradictory history. Now, in fictional form, National Book Award-winning author Charles Johnson presents twelve stories illuminating slavery's effects and experiences. From Martha Washington's management of her slaves following the death of her husband to a boy chained in the bowels of a ship laden with human cargo plying the infamous passage from Africa to the South; from a lynching in Indiana to a hunter of escaped slaves searching the Boston market for his quarry; from a Quaker meeting exploring resettlement in Africa to the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation - the voices, terrors, and savagery of slavery come unforgettably to life. These tales transcend history even as they present it, and retell the tragic proportions of a period with astounding realism, power, and emotion."--Jacket.

Turning the wheel :
ISBN: 1416572430. OCLC Number:

. .

Dr. King's refrigerator and other bedtime stories /
ISBN: 0743264533. OCLC Number:

. .

A collection of stories that explore issues of identity and race.


Oxherding Tale

  • Governor's Award for Literature, Washington State, 1983
  • Being and Race

  • Govenor's Award for Literature, 1989
  • Middle Passages

  • National Book Award, 1990
  • Best American Short Stories, 1992
  • Other Awards

  • Honorary doctorate in Humane Letters, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, 1995
  • Honorary Doctor of Arts, Northwestern University, 1994
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters degree, State University of New York at Stony Brook, l999
  • Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award, Corporate Council for the Arts, 2000
  • Achievement Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement and for Enhancing the Stature of Northwest Literature, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, 2001
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, 2002
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Evanston Township High School, 2003
  • Stephen Henderson Award for Outstanding Contributions to African American Literature and Culture, American Literature Association, 2004
  • Doctor of Humane Letters degree, Lewis and Clark College, 2006

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