campus address MIT E53-367
Cambridge, MA 02139
tel: 617 253 2952
fax 617 258 6164

Dr. Willard R. Johnson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science. During thirty two years (1964-1996) of class-room teaching at MIT, he specialized in topics relating to African studies, comparative and international politics (especially as regards poor or developing countries,) and promotion of development in American inner-city areas. His previous and continuing research and activism has sought to foster the achievement of equity, freedom, and economic and political development, by historically victimized peoples.


Website connections:

Following are video of presentations at the 2017 60th National Conference of the U.S. African Studies Association, regarding “The Pan-Africanist Career of Dr. Willard R. Johnson: Scholar, Activist, Genealogist”


Video footage from the African Studies Association panels regarding the Pan-Africanist, Activist, Genealogist and scholarly career of Dr. Willard R. Johnson, uploaded to Youtube 

1        first of  all  segments at:  https://youtu.be/zVthRpKPbkM  introduction by Pearl Robinson, and presentation re WRJ book The Cameroon Federation by Cameroon student George Njung, of Univ. of Michigan, and beginning of Dr. Catherine Boon, former WRJ student and research assistant at MIT.

2        second segment at :     https://youtu.be/9mts33woGcI  finish of Catherine Boon re now at London School of Economics, discussing  WRJ teaching and being his doctoral student and research assistant  at MIT and beginning of presentation by Dr. Richard Joseph, Director of African Studies at Northwestern Univ. and former director for Africa at The Carter Center, and former visiting professor at MIT.

3        third segment:      at https://youtu.be/rW8YnVw9IPE  introduced by Pearl Robinson and featuring video from Dr. Ibrahim Sundiata of Brandeis University and by  first part of presentation by Dr. Edmund Keller of UCLA discussing WRJ activism in Pan-African oriented organizations and activities

4        fourth segment  at  https://youtu.be/J8NF_a_n2Wk  continuation of presentation by Dr. Keller,  and first part of power-point presentation by Dr. Vivian R. Johnson, Emerita of Boston University, discussing WRJ genealogy and Kansas social history interests, and their joint genealogy interests

fifth segment at   https://youtu.be/MJFs-VSaYrU     continuation of Vivian Johnson, and remarks from audience, and from Willard, and from Dr. Adekeye Adebajo of the University of Johannesburg and head of the Institute of Pan-African Thought and Conversation there.

The flyer announcing these panels:

A screenshot of text

Description generated with very high confidence





Dr. Johnson's presentation to the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, June 2017 Conference   "The Pan-African Pantheon"

His presentation treated the remarkable  contributions to Pan-Africanism by Mr. Harry Belafonte.

click here for a video of this presentation


> Dr. Johnson is among the leaders featured in the book by noted Boston based photographer Don West and journalist Kenneth Cooper: Portraits of Purpose. #click here for website for the publisher

> Dr. Johnson was a panelist on an MIT sponsored forum concerned with the status and history of minorities in the United States society. The panelists attest to the long and tortuous journey that minority groups have undertaken for citizenship and full inclusion in U.S. society, a journey that is far from over. For his 20+ minute presentation on "Concepts of citizenship relevant to Blacks with Indians," move the cursor within the video, to the one hour and seventeen minutes (1:17) location. click here for a link to that video

> Dr. Johnson was a panelist on the WGBH TV program "Basic Black," discussing the legacy of Nelson Mandela following his 5 December 2013 passing. click here to go to the website site for that 30 minute broadcast. For the after-broadcast, online discussion, click here

> In 2013 Dr. Johnson edited and published a novel written some years earlier by one of his aunts, Mrs. Ethel Johnson Cherry, about German immigrants who settled south-western Kansas in the post American Civil War period, and developed wheat farming there. Entitled "Patriarchs of the Prairie," this romance novel is historically well informed. Over the course of the three generations that the story covers, we are introduced to the hardships, the abuses, the triumphs, the drawbacks and the benefits that came with the “Americanization” of the Mid-West, however narrow and singular a slice it is of that jagged history storyline. Told in an interesting fashion, with accessible language, honed craft, familiar ideas and experiences, and with real moral instruction, this novel is very suitable for young, as well as adult, readers. - - (Royalties will go to the KIAANAFH. Available in paperback or e-book formats from Amazon.com) click here to order

> The Kansas Institute of African American and Native American Family History (KIAANAFH)  is a non-profit membership organization to commemorate pioneer African American families of the Mid-West, and especially to document the historic ties between African- and Native-Americans, and to promote their collaboration and common interests. Click here to go to the website> KIAANAFH

> Commemorating “The Great Escape” in 1861/2 of Indians and Blacks from Confederacy-controlled Indian-Territory (later Oklahoma) into Kansas, which first brought several of the pioneer African American families into the South-East Kansas area. Dr. Johnson organized the June 2000 ceremony, “Tracing Trails of Blood on Ice,” as part of the three day Humboldt Historic Days to commemorate that town’s costly anti-slavery role in the Civil War.Click here for more on that event> Black Indian Relations - Great Escape Ceremony

> Transcription of a “breakout session” panel at the 57th Annual   Session of the National Council of American Indians that focussed on   "The Legacy and Future of  Black/Indian Relations."  The session   was organized by former Cherokee Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller,   with the assistance of Dr.  Johnson and the KIAANAFH. The transcription was rendered by Dr. Johnson.  You may  download and print this transcription for  personal, classroom, civic-organizational or other strictly  non-commercial uses only.   NCAI Transcript Black/Indian Relations   This was the first session in the 57 year history (to that time) of the NCAI, devoted specifically to discussing African American/Native American  historic relations.

> The Boston Pan-African Forum  is a non-profit membership organization devoted to promoting mutually beneficial relations between the United States and the countries and peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora. It meets monthly and carries out special projects.  Click this link for the current Boston Pan-African Forum webpage For the Bay State Banner's posting of the article by Mr. Yawu Miller, reporting on the May, 2014 Annual Meeting, in which the history of Africans in Venezuela was discussed, click here

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Biosketch: Throughout his professional career, Dr. Johnson has combined scholarship and teaching with leadership in public education and political activism relating to the economic and political advancement of disadvantaged or historically victimized communities. Dr. Johnson's research interests have included African politics and international relations and foreign policy, especially as regards ending colonialism, dependency, racism and apartheid in Africa. For several years he directed the “Business Management for Economic Development” research project that focussed on the role and potential of finance institutions and non-governmental organizations to enhance African human and organizational capacities.

He is one of the founders and Senior Advisors to the Boston Pan-African Forum Inc., which fosters public education about and engagement with the African world. He was one of the founders and served on the national Boards of Directors of TransAfrica and the TransAfrica Forum. He also founded and led the TransAfrica Boston Chapter and its "Free South Africa Movement" campaign that was instrumental in making the banning of South African Kruggerrand coins part of the national U.S. anti-apartheid agenda. He helped to establish and/or lead a number of other organizations that have fostered a sense of activism and responsibility among professional scholars as well as the general public, for African liberation and development and for U.S. foreign policies and actions respecting underdeveloped countries that are more mutually beneficial.  He served on the Project Advisory Board of the USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa - the "We Are The World" producer) 1985-1992.

In 1972 Dr. Johnson directed the Africa Policy Task Force for the McGovern for President Committee, and throughout the 1970s he served on the Democratic Party Advisory Council's Foreign Affairs Study Group. His earlier public service included two terms on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. 

On leave of absence from his duties at M.I.T. in the late 1960s, Dr. Johnson helped to establish and for two years led a Roxbury community-owned and based non-profit economic development promotion complex, the Circle Inc., that included an education and training as well as public affairs and planning consulting firm (Circle Associates, Inc.), a small business development center, an investment fund (The Circle Venture Capital Fund), and a management training institute (The Roxbury Institute of Business Management).

Dr. Johnson received his Bachelor of Arts degree at UCLA in 1957 (where he was President of the Student Body). He then served for two years as a National Vice President (of Educational Affairs, and then of International Affairs) of the U.S. National Student Association. In 1961 he earned a Master of Arts degree "with distinction" from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and in 1965, his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Harvard University.


Some Post-retirement Publications and Presentations include:

            Presentations to conferences in 2017, the video footage for which is posted above.

Presentation to two Ringling College classes, Sarasota, FL, January 2014, on the American contributions to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and remembering Mandela..

"Report on the National Park Service national conference on "Under-Ground Railroad Routes South," held in St. Augustine FL, June 2012," made to the New England Chapter of the African American Historical and Genealogy Society, Bedford, MA, October 20, 2012. This was a joint presentation by Dr.s Willard R. and Vivian R. Johnson. Vivian's presentation gave the background of the UGRR conferences, and the patterns of the practice of slavery in Spanish Florida, with analysis of the impact of Catholic Church policies and practices in lessening some of the burdens of slavery in that territory. Willard's portion of the joint presentation focused on the experience of escaped Africans who joined with Seminole Indians, and/or travelled on to the Bahamas, Cuba, and with the Seminoles on to Indian Territory and to Mexico.

"Fissures in the Fabric of Black-Indian Relations: Recent Developments Regarding Freedmen Citizenship among the 'Five Civilized Tribes'," presentations to the to the Association for the Study of. African American Life and History, National Conference, Pittsburg, PA, September 29, 2012, and to the "Manasota Chapter" of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Sarasota, Florida, Feb. 24, 2012.

"African Politics and International Relations after Independence: Some Major Patterns and Examples," guest lecture for a course on Africa at the Ringling College, Sarasota, Florida. Feb. 2012.

"African Politics and International Relations after Independence," guest lecture to course on Africa at the Ringling College, Sarasota, FL, Mr. 20, 2011

“African American Solidarity with Africa in Historical Perspective” presentation to the Sarasota United Nations Association, Feb. 28, 2011

“Concepts of Citizenship among some Native American Nations,” presentation to MIT symposium on
“ Human Diversity and the Social order—Minorities in the United States” Feb. 24, 2011.

"Controversies Regarding Continued Citizenship of Blacks among some Native American Nations." Presentation to the "Free Thinkers Program" of the Universalits-Unitarian Church of Sarasota, Florida. Feb. 2011.

Moderator and Summary statements for “Reflections on International Humanitarian Interventions in Africa: A Symposium,” 21 to 23 September 2010 – Addis Ababa Ethiopia, sponsored by USA for Africa.

“The History of Ancient African Civilization” and “History of Black/Indian Relations” two 12 hour, non-credit
courses at The Pierian Spring Academy, Sarasota, FL, Jan-March, 2010

“The International Significance of the Obama Campaign: Remarks to MIT Students for Obama,” April 11, 2007 and published on the Dr. Joyce “Ladner Report” blog, 2009 -- Presentation text

”Citizenship controversies for African Americans in some U.S. Native American nations: an historical context.” Presentation to the National Conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Cincinnati, OH. Oct. 2009

Halpata Micco: Billy Bowlegs” posting on BlackPast.org -An Online Reference Guide to African American History, edited by Dr. Quintard Taylor. 2008 www.blackpast.org See also:
"Willard Johnson, Sr.” posting on BlackPast.org. op.cit. – 2008
" Dr. Martin L. Kilson” posting on BlackPast.org. op.cit. – 2008
Governon Deval Patrick” posting on BlackPast.org op. cit.- 2008

“Rev. Chris Nteta, - the Wise Counselor.” Comments at the Funeral of Rev. Christopher Nteta, North Andover, MA. May 3 2008

“Tribal Tribulations – Fissures in the Fabric of African American/Native American relations” Conference at Univ.
of Cotonou, Benin (West Africa) July 2008

“Rights campaigns as a basis for social change - drawing lessons from the American anti-Apartheid movement.” UNESCO Inter-generational Conference on Human Rights, Univ. of Connecticut. August 8 2005

“Of Bonds and Bondage: Exploring the Scope, Complexity and Meaning of the Black/Indian Connection,” presentation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, November 1, 2005.

“Building an American Constituency for Africa: Sustaining the Success of the National Summit on Africa,” in Jemadari Kamara and Tony Menelik Van Der Meer (Ed.s) The State of the Race- Creating our 21st Century: Where Do We Go From Here? Boston: Diaspora Press. 2004

“A Man of Courage and Integrity,” in Walter A. Rosenblith (Ed.) Jerry Wiesner: Scientist, Statesman, Humanist. Cambridge: MA The MIT Press. 2003

"Hidden Aspects of African American Roots in the Mid-West: The 1861/61 'Great Escape' of Blacks and Indians into Kansas," presentation to the Annual Meeting of the African American Historical and Genealogical Society, (AAHGS), Washington DC.. 2002. and to the AAHGS- New England 2003

“Tracing Trails of Blood on Ice” Negro History Bulletin. Vol 64 No.s 1-4 2001
“The Legacy and Future of Black/Indian Relations,” transcription by Dr. Willard R. Johnson of a panel at the National Council of American Indians , Nov. 14 2000 , that Dr. Johnson organized with and for Cherokee Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller, published by KIAANAFH: 2001. Available on-line through www.KIAANAFH.org.

“CD of Spreadsheet Transcription & Graphic Scan of 1869 Pension Census of the Cherokee Nation” by Dr. Willard R. Johnson. Published by KIAANAFH, Cambridge, MA. 2001

“Willard R. Johnson” oral history interview by Clarence G. Williams, in his Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941-1999. Cambridge, MA: MIT University Press 2001 Click here to link to this chapter

For other links to some of the above items and others, see below:

Blackpast.org vignettes regarding: Seminole Chief Halpata Micco/ Billy Bowlegs vignette , as well as Harvard Prof. Martin L. Kilson, MA Gov. Deval L. Patrick,

Bacteriologist Willard Johnson (Sr.)., Click here for general Blackpast.org site

“Tracing Trails of Blood on Ice,” Negro History Bulletin. Vol 64 No.s 1-4, 2001.

“Peace and Security” with Dr.s Jendayi Frazer (Chair of Expert Group), Beverlee Bruce, Michael Chege, David Smock. Thematic Working Paper Series. Washington DC.: The National Summit on Africa. June 1998.

“African Odyssey: What role should the U.S. take in Africa?” PBS Online Newshour: Online Forum. April 2, 1998. (
click here for this item)