The life of Howard Johnson, nicknamed GCGBPStretchGC 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. JohnsonGCOs long-awaited memoir traces his path from firstborn of a multiclass/multiethnicGC family in New Jersey to dancer in HarlemGCOs 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.JohnsonGs engaging, beautifully written memoir provides a window into everyday life in HarlemGneighborhood life, arts and culture, and politicsGfrom the 1930s to the 1970s, when the contemporary Black community was being formed. A Dancer in the Revolution explores JohnsonGs twenty-plus years in the Communist Party andilluminates in compelling detail how the Harlem branch functioned and flourished in the 1930s and G40s. 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 HarlemGs nightlife in the 1930s. Some of AmericaGs leading white literary, musical, and artistic figures were attracted to Harlem not only for the communityGs artistic creativity but to engage in illicit sexGgay and straightGwith 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 GStretchG 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. JohnsonGs journey bears witness to critical periods and events that shaped the Black condition and American society in the process.
Dancer in the Revolution
Fordham University Press
Stretch Johnson, Harlem Communist at the Cotton Club