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Interview with Harvey Johnson, conducted by Sarah C. Reynolds.

Eyes opened

I was born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1947 and so I was there during the 50s. I grew up in a family of four—a small family—and my mother raised us. We were poor but didn’t know we were poor because of the warmth and attention and love that Mama provided for us. But it was a struggle for African people. During that time we lived on the west side of the railroad tracks, and Caucasian people lived on the east side of the railroad tracks. We had no idea of discrimination or anything like that because Mama never said anything to us about it. Black and white, green, yellow, whatever. We were just poor, and trying to survive.

We were very innocent, like I said. We didn’t know. When I rode the bus downtown, Mama would walk to the back with us. We didn’t question it, you know. Or when we went to the water fountains, we drank out of the colored water fountains. We didn’t question it because she never did say anything about it. So we thought that was supposed to be…until Willie Moore.

Willie was my teacher at Lincoln High School in Port Arthur. I took art class from Willie in the tenth grade; I would go to his house often—every day—he and Anne. Seemed like they were doing art 24/7, you know. He introduced me for the first time to two very significant people: James Baldwin and John Biggers. From then on, that’s when racism became a reality for me. That’s when I woke up from being a child, mentally and emotionally. He introduced me to John, and he showed me a book by Cedric Dover, American Negro Art.

American Negro Art, Cedric Dover. Greenwich CT: New York Graphic Society, 1960.
John was in that publication with his mural he did at the YMCA in Third Ward on McGowan Street for his doctorate degree, and it moved me. It moved me because I saw a relationship between what I was looking at and the way I was living.

It was good for Mama to protect us, especially the male children, because the male children were the ones most threatened—and she did not want our lives to be cut short or changed by racism. So that’s why she didn’t say anything to us about that. But Willie blew the lid off it. It wasn’t really a conversation. It was things unveiling before your eyes every week or every month through his own work.

All god's chillun got wings

By Harvey Johnson, 2003. courtesy of the artist.

A means to an end

I saw art as a means to an end because during that time, black kids were supposed to be teachers for the most part; to aspire to being a teacher, nothing beyond that. I wanted something different, and I wanted to express who I am as a black man. I started researching and questioning what I was reading, what I was being taught in school. The images I saw were not images of me. They were images of others, which is all well and good—don’t get me wrong. But where was I? That was the question.

My mother, Anna Bell Thornton—maiden name Pitre—she was so influential. The love she expressed…she actually taught me through her own ways my African culture. She taught this through spirituals because spirituals were sophisticated explanations of scientific laws that help us understand the ordering of the universe and the ever-evolving cycles of life. This is the way she exposed us. It did not matter whether we were intellectually sophisticated [enough] to understand it; through her own expressions of love which involved not just providing for us food, clothing and shelter but transmitting values to us, [she transmitted]values that I found out later on were parallel to African values that certainly were universal. That to me was—it blew my mind.

Questions & Answers

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
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Source:  OpenStax, Houston reflections: art in the city, 1950s, 60s and 70s. OpenStax CNX. May 06, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10526/1.2
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