(US, 1948– )
Johnson, born in Illinois, began his career as an editorial cartoonist and has gone on to become a novelist, essayist, screenwriter, playwright, and critic. His work draws upon African-American folklore, Buddhism, and philosophy. Issues of history, philosophy, and black masculinity dominate his fiction. His two best-known novels, Oxherding Tale (1982) and Middle Passage (1990; for which he won a National Book Award), feature enslaved male protagonists seeking liberation from literal and figurative bondage. In both, Johnson pioneers his own philosophical understanding of history and freedom from a non-Western perspective as exemplified by the fictional Allmuseri, a tribe of African sorcerers who appear in both of these texts. Johnson currently resides in Seattle and teaches at the University of Washington.
Ishmael Reed, Richard Wright, Ernest J. Gaines FM