E. Patrick Johnson, PhD. was born on March 1, 1967. He is an important writer, researcher, scholar, activist, performance artist, and ethnographer. As a highly respected author and performance artist, Johnson has performed nationally and internationally, and has been published widely in the areas of race, gender, sexuality, and performance.
E. Patrick Johnson is the youngest of seven children born in Hickory, North Carolina to Sarah M. Johnson, a factory worker and domestic who made education a high priority in her children’s lives. He attended Highland Elementary and Grandview Junior High schools, and graduated from Hickory High School in 1985. Johnson received both his Bachelor of Arts degree (1989) and his Master of Arts degree (1991) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and continued on to earn his Doctorate in performance studies with a minor in African American literature at Louisiana State University in 1996.
Dr. Johnson is currently the Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University, and the chair of the Department of African American Studies. In addition, he is the founder and director of the Black Arts Initiative at Northwestern. Before accepting his current position at Northwestern, Johnson was an assistant professor of English at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Dr. E. Patrick Johnson is a prolific performer and scholar who has made important contributions in the fields of performance studies, critical race theory, and queer theory, especially queer of color critique. He is an inspiring teacher whose research and artistry have greatly impacted African American studies, performance studies, and sexuality studies. Dr. Johnson has written two award-winning books, “Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity” (2003), which won the Lilla A. Heston Award, the Errol Hill Book Award, and was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; and “Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South – An Oral History” (2008), which was recognized as a Stonewall Book Award Honor Book by the LGBT Round Table of the American Library Association. He also co-edited (with Mae G. Henderson) “Black Queer Studies – A Critical Anthology” (2005).
E. Patrick Johnson also co-edited (with Ramon Rivera-Servera) “solo/black/woman: scripts, essays, interviews” (2013) and “Blacktino Queer Performance,” and edited “Cultural Struggles: Performance, Ethnography, Praxis,” a collection of essays written by his mentor, Dwight Conquergood. Johnson’s next book, “Black. Queer. Southern. Women. – An Oral History,” will be published this fall. And, he is completing “Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women,” a creative nonfiction book of Black same gender loving women in the South. Dr. Johnson’s essays have appeared in “Text and Performance Quarterly,” “Callaloo,” “Theater Journal,” and the “Journal of Homosexuality,” among others.
Dr. Johnson’s performance work dovetails with his written work. He toured his one-man show, “Strange Fruit,” an autobiographical meditation on race, gender, class, and religion to over 30 college campuses from 1998 through 2003. His staged reading, “Pouring Tea: Black Gay Men of the South Tell Their Tales,” is based on his book, “Sweet Tea,” and has toured to more than 100 college campuses from 2006 to the present. In 2009, Johnson translated the staged reading into a full-length stage play, “Sweet Tea – The Play,” which was co-produced by About Face Theater and the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College, Chicago. The play had its world premiere in April 2010, and enjoyed a month-long run to rave reviews. Johnson won a Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Solo Performance for the show. In the fall of 2011, the show had a four-week run at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia; a two-week run at the Durham Arts Council in Durham, NC; and a debut in Los Angeles at Towne Street Theater in 2015. His documentary film, “Making Sweet Tea,” based on the book “Sweet Tea,” will premiere this fall.
E. Patrick Johnson was also awarded the Leslie Irene Coger Award for Outstanding Contributions to Performance by the National Communication Association, the Randy Majors Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to LGBT Scholarship in Communication, and was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 2010. He has also been recognized with the Clarence Ver Steeg Award by Northwestern University Graduate School (2007), the Martin Duberman Fellowship from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at City University of New York (2005), and the Errol Hill Award for Outstanding Scholarship in African American Theatre Studies, Awarded by the American Society for Theatre Research in 2004. Johnson is among six artists who received the 2014 Otto Rene Castillo Award for Political Theatre.
Dr. Johnson’s performances, writing, and academic contributions serve to celebrate and illuminate the lives of the Black same-gender loving and trans communities. When asked about the impact of his community on his work, he told the Ubuntu Biography Project, “Our community is my safety net when my biological family can’t be. It’s my life buoy when I’m in a sea of despair. It gives me life on the dance floor and in the classroom. My research and creative work is all about giving voice to this community I love…I can’t imagine a world without the gifts of [the Black LGBTQ] community.”
We thank Dr. E. Patrick Johnson for his numerous contributions to the arts and literature, and for his steadfast support of our community.