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A Dancer in the Revolution : Stretch Johnson, Harlem Communist at the Cotton Club - Howard Eugene Johnson

A Dancer in the Revolution

Stretch Johnson, Harlem Communist at the Cotton Club

By: Howard Eugene Johnson, Wendy D. Johnson (As told to), Mark D. Naison (Foreword by)


Published: 3rd April 2014
RRP $70.00

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Published: 1st April 2014
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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.

"Although this book touches on issues of race and class endlessly discussed by the US left for decades, it is primarily the story of one man's experience living in a nation whose history is defined by those issues. that life explains more than a thousand debates." -Counterpunch "In this vivid memoir, Howard "Stretch" Johnson shares his unforgettable journey from the dance floor of the Cotton Club to the top echelons of the Communist Party. With colorful tales of the nightlife of the Harlem Renaissance and insightful reflections on the American left and Black freedom struggle, A Dancer in the Revolution is hard to put down. Johnson tells his remarkable life story with wit and grace, sharing stories of pain and regret, but never-ending commitment to social justice." -- -Martha Biondi author of To Stand and Fight: the Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City and The Black Revolution on Campus "Stretch Johnson's nickname honored his exceptional height and flexibility as a professional dancer, but also captured his rarer talent for reaching across cultural and political gaps. His effortlessly lively and rigorously honest memoir illuminates forgotten links between the Cotton Club and the Communist Party, the Harlem Renaissance and the early Black Studies scholarship that canonized it. A Dancer in the Revolution is radical life-writing that magnetically rejoins divided histories." -- -William J. Maxwell Washington University in St. Louis, author of FB Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature "This is an excellent publication that provides an insider's view of everyday life and culture in Harlem during the period in which the contemporary black community is being formed." -- -Henry Louis Taylor Jr. University at Buffalo, SUNY "Howard "Stretch" Johnson's life story, ably edited by Wendy Johnson, is a compelling drama of race, dance, and radical politics of the 1930s to 1960s. No other book offers so much deep personal insight in these areas, and this book deserves as many readers as Claude McKay's Home to Harlem." -- -Paul Buhle authorized biographer of C.L.R. James and retired Senior Lecturer, Brown University

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

ISBN: 9780823256532
ISBN-10: 0823256537
Series: Empire State Editions
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 216
Published: 3rd April 2014
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.9 x 15.2  x 2.3
Weight (kg): 0.43