This candid, at times searingly honest, memoir offers a captivating insider's view of life, culture, and politics in 1930s0070s Harlem and delivers the keen insights of a truly inspirational Black American who fought all his life for freedom. The life of Howard Johnson, nicknamed "Stretch" because of his height (6'5"), epitomizes the cultural and political odyssey of a generation of African Americans who transformed the United States from a closed society to a multiracial democracy. Johnson's long-awaited memoir traces his path from firstborn of a multiclass/multiethnic" family in New Jersey to dancer in Harlem's Cotton Club to communist youth leader and, later, professor of Black studies. A Dancer in the Revolution is a powerful statement about Black resilience and triumph amid subtle and explicit racism in the United States. Johnson's engaging, beautifully written memoir provides a window into everyday life in Harlem--neighborhood life, arts and culture, and politics--from the 1930s to the 1970s, when the contemporary Black community was being formed.
A Dancer in the Revolution explores Johnson's twenty-plus years in the Communist Party and illuminates in compelling detail how the Harlem branch functioned and flourished in the 1930s and '40s. Johnson thrived as a charismatic leader, using the connections he built up as an athlete and dancer to create alliances between communist organizations and a cross-section of the Black community. In his memoir, Johnson also exposes the homoerotic tourism that was a feature of Harlem's nightlife in the 1930s. Some of America's leading white literary, musical, and artistic figures were attracted to Harlem not only for the community's artistic creativity but to engage in illicit sex--gay and straight--with their Black counterparts. A Dancer in the Revolution is an invaluable contribution to the literature on Black political thought and pragmatism. It reveals the unique place that Black dancers and artists hold in civil rights pursuits and anti-racism campaigns in the United States and beyond.
Moreover, the life of "Stretch" Johnson illustrates how political activism engenders not only social change but also personal fulfillment, a realization of dreams not deferred but rather pursued and achieved. Johnson's journey bears witness to critical periods and events that shaped the Black condition and American society in the process.
Howard "Stretch" Eugene Johnson (1915-2000) was a former Communist Party leader, Cotton Club dancer, World War II veteran, and academic. His final years were spent as a professor of Black studies at SUNY New Paltz and as an ongoing activist in Hawai'i, where he helped achieve state recognition of Martin Luther King's birthday as a bank holiday, marching until the age of 80 in Paris, France, and Harlem for causes he believed just. Wendy Johnson is the eldest of Stretch and Martha Sherman Johnson's three daughters. She has worked as an activist, translator, and teacher of English. She lives in Paris. Mark D. Naison is Professor of History and African American Studies at Fordham University, where he also directs the Bronx African American History Project. He is the author of three books, including Communists in Harlem During the Depression.
Introduction Mark D. Naison Acknowledgments Wendy Johnson PART ONE Ch 1 Early Days Ch 2 Harlem and the Cotton Club Ch 3 Moving Up Ch 4 Show Biz Ch 5 Joining the Party PART TWO Ch 6 The Young Communist League Ch 7 The War Years Ch 8 Back Home Ch 9 La Lucha Continua PART THREE Ch 10 Starting Over Ch 11 Malimwu Ch 12 The Cotton Club Revisited Ch 13 Hawaii's Martin Luther King Day Ch 14 Paris - Texas and Home Again Time Line Howard E. Johnson's Curriculum Vitae Further reading Index
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- ID: 9780823256532
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