Award winning author starts the Carol S. Franklin Social Science Speaker Series

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Dr. Charles Johnson (Photo courtesy of Social Science department)
Dr. Charles Johnson
(Photo courtesy of Social Science department)

By Jeremy Hopkins, West campus Editor
Charles Johnson is not your average PhD.  This warm and engaging gentleman kicked off the first of the newly-named Carol S Franklin Social Science Speaker series at the Western campus last month, in time for Black History Month.


While much of his speech remains as delicate as the memory of a gossamer web, some elements remain for the web to spread.  The speech was recorded, although the Voice does not have the full video available at this time.  After his speech, however, Dr. Johnson answered a few questions from the audience, and the highlights of those answers are included below.

Johnson was not always a professor, as he references in the clip of the second question.  In the early part of his career, he was also an illustrator, and mentioned he had a show on a PBS channel named “Charlie’s Pad.”  He also wrote several books while enrolled at school.  He did not give it much thought: he had an idea and just set it down on paper.  Afterwards, he realized it took about 18 weeks.  He did this again, and again, and paired up with another author to get a book out in about nine months.  “It still seemed incredibly fast,” he remarked about the pace, but it didn’t seem to phase him.


Looking into Johnson’s warm brown eyes, you get the sense that this man has lived through history.  Not in that manner that cries louder than words of pompous arrogance, but the gentle soul of what might be called the ‘bridge generation.’  These individuals are approaching retirement age now, and lived through some of the most chaotic and cataclysmic times of the modern age.  Not that the wars of the world were not some psychotic hell, but the calm period afterwards, when this country focused on many of it’s own problems, were times of social and political upheaval.  The 1950s and 60s were and are still known as the major cauldron that created and presented the Civil Rights movement, and Johnson was able to experience both the before and after.

As Tommy Lee Jones’ character remarked in the movie “Under Siege,” the notion of a movement is short-lived.  It moves a set distance, and stops.  A revolution, on the other hand keeps “coming around.”  Unlike Jones’ character, however, Johnson believes that love is the better tool.

In his speech, Johnson mentions that he early on was a fan of the methods and style of Malcom X rather than Martin Luther King, Jr.  It is not that he is a violent man; Johnson was a teenager when Malcom X and Dr. King were marching and giving speeches.  As many of us might remember, the teenager in all of us craves action over talk, and looks for someone who challenges the status quo or the authority in place at the time.  Once the person ages somewhat, the mentality of reason begins to accept the methods of Dr. King’s non-violent approach over Malcom X’s violent one.


There are several moments when the influence of each leader can be seen in Johnson’s speech.  Johnson remarked during the question and answer period following his presentation about a line of Malcom X’s that he still remembers: “Why would you want to integrate yourself into a burning building?”  Clearly, thought needs to be given on what you want to achieve in life.


Johnson is clearly someone who educates others.  He also is someone who has a lot of love for his family, and for his community, and his common man.  Nor is he focused on just the men of society: one of the questions drew some frank and admiring advice for young women of color in today’s society.


But in the end, Johnson was a fantastic start to the series of Social Science speakers, named after Dr. Franklin in honor of her hard work and dedication to improving education and awareness for the urban students.


Highlights of Johnson’s speech and answers are included below.

The Contract Blank:  Johnson reads from the contract that protesters agreed to during the Civil Rights protests in the early 60s.

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“Did you think there would be an African-American President?”

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“What can we do to address [the increasing numbers of African American students becoming profiled as trouble-makers] in their schools?”

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Energy and Pride

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