This week we welcome back poet and writer J. Chester Johnson as our guest author. Chester rew up one county removed from the Elaine Race Massacre site in southeast Arkansas along the Mississippi River Delta. He has written extensively on race and civil rights, composing the Litany for the national Day of Repentance (October 4, 2008) when the Episcopal Church formally apologized for its role in transatlantic slavery and related evils. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement and following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Johnson returned to the town of his youth to teach in the all African-American public school before integration of the local education system. Several of his writings are part of the J. Chester Johnson Collection in the Civil Rights Archives at Queens College (NYC), the alma mater of Andrew Goodman, one of three martyrs murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi during Freedom Summer. His three most recent books are St. Paul’s Chapel & Selected Shorter Poems (2010), Now And Then: Selected Longer Poems (2017), and Auden, the Psalms, and Me (2017), the story of the retranslation of the psalms in the Book of Common Prayer for which W. H. Auden (1968-1971) and Johnson (1971-1979) were the poets on the drafting committee; published in 1979, this version has become a standard. Johnson’s latest book, Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and A Story of Reconciliation, is being published this month (May, 2020) by Pegasus. He served as co-chair of the Elaine Massacre Memorial Committee.
Welcome back, Chester.