J. Chester Johnson was born on September 28, 1944 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He grew up in Arkansas and was educated at Harvard College and the University of Arkansas. From 1969 to 1970, during the later part of the Civil Rights movement, J. Chester Johnson taught in an all African-American public school in Monticello, Arkansas before public school integration occurred. During this time he also joined the mayoral race of the town, however he was not elected. This experience eventually led him to write the manuscript The Mixer. Aside from this, Johnson worked in the financial sector as an investment banker and later worked in the Treasury Department until 1979. After the Treasury Department, he started his own consulting firm. The collection documents Johnson’s participation in the Civil Rights movement as well as later involvement in social justice through literary works he has created. The collection contains five physical works, one digital work, and miscellaneous papers and articles describing social justice related events he has participated in as well as typed profile sheet of Johnson as a poet.
Movement and later efforts for social justice. The first major work was a retranslation of the psalms in The Book of Common Prayer for The Episcopal Church (USA) in 1979. He again did work for the Episcopal Church in 2008, writing A Litany of Offenses and Apology. This was a formal apology by the church conducted on a Day of Repentance, for their long term participation in slavery and other associated actions. In 2010, he published St. Paul’s Chapel & Selected Shorter Poems, in remembrance of 9/11. In 2011, Meditations on Civil Rights Activists was printed as a guide by the Trinity Church in Manhattan to serve as reflections for the Lenten season. Martin, self-published in 2011, is another reflection piece covering the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. The Mixer (2011) covers Johnson’s experience as a school teacher at an all-black school in Monticello, Arkansas, just prior to integration, as well as his attempts to run for mayor in the town during that time. For Conduct and Innocents was written to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed by Nazi troops in Germany after being sent to a concentration camp. Bonhoeffer’s words were often used by many Civil Rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr. Evanescence: The Elaine Race Massacre (2013) covers the mass murder of African Americans in the fall of 1919 in Phillips County, Arkansas. It brings to the forefront the racism that was prevalent in the area and time as well as gives insights in to the legal proceedings following the massacre. This last work was published digitally by the Green Mountain Review.
Series I: Social Justice Writings Series II: Episcopal Church Writings Series III: Miscellaneous
Collection is open for research. Staff may restrict access at its discretion on the basis of physical condition.
The J. Chester Johnson Collection is physically owned by the Queens College Libraries. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assignees. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Queens College assumes no responsibility for the infringement of copyrights held by the original authors, creators, or producers of materials.
African Americans--Civil rights
Civil rights movement--United States--History--20th century
Episcopal Church – United States
Johnson, J. Chester
New York (N.Y.)
Race Relations – Southern States
Trinity Church (New York, N.Y.). St. Paul's Chapel;
Item, date (if known), folder, box, J. Chester Johnson Collection, Department of Special Collections and Archives, Queens College, City University of New York
Donated by J. Chester Johnson in 2013