Lloyd Johnson

14. Summer of 1949

By |2021-03-22T03:01:46+00:00January 17th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

My Truth: My Journey Toward Servant Leadership    Situated between Bedford and Franklin Avenues in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, our new home at 669 Park Place was a converted two-family home, including what I later learned was an illegal one-bedroom apartment on the top floor. Tenants, customary in those days, were necessary to help Ma to meet the expenses of our new home. But unlike my childhood home on Linwood Square, in Roxbury, MA, these tenants were not family members or friends, but total strangers, referred by a local realtor.   Transportation-wise, my new home had several distinct advantages  We were steps away from the Franklin Avenue Shuttle which provided easy access to the IND’s  “A” train, going directly into Manhattan. The IRT’s [...]

15. The Mecca

By |2021-03-22T03:03:26+00:00January 16th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

WELCOME  Racism was my introduction to Washington, D.C., my nation’s capital. Arriving by train at the cavernous Union Station in early September 1949, I had all my worldly belongings in a single suitcase. It was an unseasonably warm, sunny day outside and I easily found my way to the taxicab stand to begin the newest chapter of my life at the Mecca for Black college students, Howard University.   There were two lines at the cab stand and, of course, I chose the shorter one – only to be told by the white dispatcher that, “your line” (AKA the line for Black people) was the longer line off to the side. He said it as casually as if he was directing me to the local post office. I was shocked and humiliated by this overtly discriminatory statement. He was so matter-of-fact. Racial segregation, I quickly realized, was an integral part of life [...]

16. Big Mistake and Reckoning

By |2021-03-22T03:04:23+00:00January 15th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

  I had bad vibes about Howard University’s College of Pharmacy (COP) almost from the moment I sat in my first class. Physically, the College was situated in the “Valley,” Howard’s medical complex, four or five blocks downhill from Howard’s main campus. It was surrounded by the colleges of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing, and the former Freedman’s Hospital.   The other pharmacy students in my entering first-year class all seemed older, more mature, businesslike than me, and many were using the educational benefits of the GI Bill.  The overall atmosphere of the COP was dry and somber, unlike the fun-filled atmosphere of Cook Hall and the main campus. It was also a much longer walk to class, especially in inclement weather.   In COP, we weren’t called “freshmen”; we were called “first years” because most of the class of 30 or so had previously completed one or two years of undergraduate study, enabling them to focus on their pharmacy courses.   [...]


By |2021-03-22T03:05:29+00:00January 14th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

RETURN TO CAMPUS  I returned to Howard’s campus in the fall of 1951 armed with a newly-discovered sense of purpose. I was determined to complete my college education. It didn’t bother me that I was a returning third-year student among newly-admitted freshmen, most of whom were my age -- 19. The kid who started school at age 4 was finally among college students his own age.    Clarke Hall, a decrepit, wood-frame building (later demolished), was the newly-designated dormitory for upperclass undergraduate male students. It faced south overlooking the main campus. My roommate was my good friend and fellow Bamboola, Herb Hannahs, from Evanston, Illinois.    Herb, now a junior, and I became confidantes. He was a good example for me. He was diligent with his studies (sociology), though not wonkish, and was adept at working the angles – the legal ones -- to his [...]

18. Who Killed Michael Farmer? 

By |2021-03-22T03:06:35+00:00January 13th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

 GRAD SCHOOL & WORLD OF WORK  I wasn’t at all surprised that Adelphi University was the polar opposite of Howard. It was situated in Garden City, New York, a wealthy, white, suburban community, and, other than the School of Social Work,  its student body was predictably almost entirely white. I wasn’t distracted by the demographics. I knew it beforehand and was there for one reason: Earn the master’s degree. I was focused and empowered.     Remember, this was a joint sociology/social work program. I had a great relationship with my sociology faculty advisor, but I was increasingly drawn to the School of Social Work’s training in direct services to marginalized people. Graduate social work education, then and now, consists of three weekdays of field work training in a reputable social agency under the close supervision of an experienced graduate social worker, with the other two days spent in the classroom.   My field work assignment was to assist adjudicated [...]

19. Accountability & All in for Equality

By |2021-03-22T03:07:37+00:00January 12th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

ACCOUNTABILITY    Any expectation that after two stints in jail, my older brother had left his violent criminal behavior behind him were for naught in May 1959.   Late in 1958, Calvin’s second wife executed a carefully choreographed plan and left him for parts unknown because of his long-term abuse. She and I had had a close relationship, and I never for a millisecond doubted her when she finally told me about his abusive behavior. Like so many such victims, she had kept his abuse to herself for many years.   In the early evening of Saturday, May 31, 1959, Calvin burst into her brother’s home and murdered him, shooting him six times before his mother, wife, and child. We never learned specifically what had motivated this horrific killing. Calvin was seriously wounded by the police in the course of his arrest, survived and was tried convicted, and sentenced to 40 years to life imprisonment. The sentence was reduced on appeal to 20 years to life, almost all [...]


By |2021-03-22T03:08:25+00:00January 11th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

SERVANT LEADERSHIP  Lloyd A. Johnson1963 Beginning in the early 1960s, I joined thousands of other Americans, Black and white, in “The Movement,” massive, nationwide, nonviolent, direct-action attacks on racial injustice. At the same time, I assumed leadership of two well-funded community action programs. I learned the meaning of servant leadership; a leader who empowers others.  I believe that it is better to lead from behind, empowering others and thereby ensuring the likelihood of lasting change.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s memorable sermon, “The Drum Major Instinct,” captures the essence of servant leadership. It’s my all-time favorite sermon.  The Movement, widespread national demonstrations, began when four Black students from North Carolina A&T College in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat-in at a Woolworth’s five-and-dime store in an effort to desegregate its lunch counter. It was spurred by the nonviolent teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and then the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.    I was all-in from the [...]

21. What to Do with the $10 Million? 

By |2021-03-22T03:09:56+00:00January 10th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

PROTEST & THE URBAN CENTER   Protests over civil rights and the Vietnam War dominated the U.S. in the 1960s and Columbia University’s Urban Center was a direct result of its student uprisings in 1968.  Black students of the Student Afro-American Society (SAS) were outraged by the University’s planned construction of an arguably segregated gymnasium in adjoining Morningside Park. With strong support from the nearby Harlem community, hundreds of Black students occupied the University’s Hamilton Hall classroom building and took a University administrator hostage. White students of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were outraged by the University’s complicity in the Vietnam War, and occupied Lowe Library, the administration building.   Thousands of arrests were made and the protests attracted worldwide attention and sparked student demonstrations elsewhere.  The University discontinued classes, the president resigned, plans for the construction of the gymnasium were indefinitely postponed, and the Ford Foundation made a $10 million line of credit available to the University to establish an urban affairs program. Enter the Urban Center, with Franklin [...]

22. New Directions

By |2021-03-22T03:10:55+00:00January 9th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

AT THE URBAN CENTER  Inwardly, I was apprehensive about succeeding Franklin H. Williams as the director of Columbia University’s Urban Center. Physically, he had a commanding presence. He exuded self-confidence. He had been the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, and he was used to dealing with people at the highest levels of government, nationally and internationally. A lawyer, he had successfully argued several civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.   I had none of these, nor the academic credentials to compete inside an Ivy League University. I wasn’t the product of the Ivy League nor had I earned the Ph.D. -- the gold standard of academic degrees and very important in any Ivy League university, then and now.   But I kept my uncertainties to myself and fell back on a tenet of my social [...]


By |2021-03-22T03:11:55+00:00January 8th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME  My return to D.C. in 1974 to meet with Congressman Gus Hawkins and talk about a job, was very unlike my arrival there in 1949, 25 years earlier, when I came to enroll in the Mecca, Howard University. This time, the U.S. Capitol wasn’t just a landmark; it was my likely place of employment. I carried a briefcase, not a suitcase. There was one taxicab line at Union Station, not two segregated ones – and the dispatcher was Black. The mayor, Walter Washington, was a Black man. A college friend had told me that, within the Black community, the District of Columbia was now called Chocolate City, majority Black. She was right.  I naively thought that the Rayburn House Office Building, the site of Congressman Hawkins’ office (staff never called him “Gus”), was a typical office [...]