Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with Phillys7thWard.org and Citizen Ed, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer. But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month…February is just the Blackest.
Today, our featured Black Educator is Edward A. Johnson.
Edward Austin Johnson was born in North Carolina on November 23, 1860. Born enslaved, Johnson received his early education from a free Black woman, Nancy Walton, and after emancipation attended a school in Raleigh directed by two white teachers from New England. Following that, Johnson graduated from Washington High School for Negroes in Raleigh.
Johnson attended Atlanta University while simultaneously teaching in rural Houston County, Georgia and running a barbershop—he graduated in 1883. After graduation, Johnson taught in the Atlanta public school system and eventually became a principal of the Mitchell Street School. Johnson returned to Raleigh to lead the Washington High School.
As an educator, he came to recognize the critical need for works that would provide black children with information about “the many brave deeds and noble characters of their own race,” and to fill the void, Johnson wrote A School History of the Negro Race in America which was published in 1891—the first textbook to be approved by the North Carolina State Board of Education by a Black author for use in the public schools. This text established Johnson’s reputation as a scholar and historian.
Johnson was the author of several other books, including History of the Negro Soldiers in the Spanish-American War, Light Ahead for the Negro, and Negro Almanac and Statistics, as well as numerous articles and pamphlets.
While a principal in Raleigh, Johnson enrolled in the law school at Shaw University and received a law degree and later joined the law faculty at Shaw, serving first as professor and later as dean. As an attorney, Johnson acquired an enviable reputation as a trial lawyer and won all of the numerous cases that he argued before the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Johnson’s studies led him into politics he served as an alderman, district attorney and chairman of the GOP in his congressional district. He was also a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1892, 1896 and 1900; President Theodore Roosevelt made him an honorary brigadier general in his inaugural parade.
In addition, Johnson was a founder of the National Negro Business League with Booker T. Washington at a time when he was one of the largest property owners in Raleigh. Johnson left North Carolina due to racial discrimination and moved to Harlem, where he was admitted to the New York bar and continued his activities as a Republican politician.
In 1917, Johnson became the first African American elected to the New York state legislature representing the 19th Assembly District. He served one term in the legislature.
Edward A. Johnson; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.
For more information on Edward A. Johnson, visit the following site.