Johnson, Walton R.

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Walton R. Johnson was born in 1938. He received his PhD in social psychology from the University of London in 1971. His areas of concentration include African political economy, South African race relations and U.S. race relations. Walton R. Johnson was a Professor of Social Anthropology in the Department of Africana Studies at Rutgers University. Johnson also served as an Admission Counselor as a former Dean of Livingston College. Johnson was teaching on the Livingston Campus during the spring of 1995 when reaction to Rutgers President Francis L. Lawrence's racially insensitive statement surfaced. Johnson was instrumental in the formation of the Coalition of Black and Latino Faculty and Staff, which was a direct response to the situation. He also gathered and saved newspaper articles that were published almost daily on the state of affairs at Rutgers that serves as an important part of the collection chronicling the events of 1995.

From the description of The Walton R. Johnson papers, 1949-2001 ; 1995-1999 (bulk). (Rutgers University). WorldCat record id: 230724238

Walton R. Johnson was born in 1938. He trained in social anthropology. He received his PhD from the University of London in 1971. His areas of concentration include African political economy, South African race relations and U. S. race relations. Extensive field work in Africa resulted in the creation of some of his major works: Worship and Freedom: A Black American Church in Zambia (1977) and Dismantling Apartheid: A South African Town in Transition (1994). Johnson is also the editor of African Christianity: Patterns of Religious Continuity (1979) and Inside the Mixed Marriage: Accounts of Changing Attitudes, Patterns, and Perceptions of Cross-Cultural and Interracial Marriages (1994).

In addition to his teaching, Johnson as served as an Admission Counselor and as a former Dean of Livingston College. Johnson was teaching on the Livingston Campus during the spring of 1995 when reaction to Rutgers President Francis L. Lawrence's racially insensitive statement surfaced (see Historical Background below). He was instrumental in the formation of the Coalition of Black and Latino Faculty and Staff, which was a direct response to the situation. He also gathered and saved newspaper articles that were published almost daily on the state of affairs at Rutgers that serves as an important part of the collection chronicling the events of 1995.

The Statement:

". . . When you're looking at assessment, you got to look at the input. Do we assess in the same way at Rutgers that we would in an open admissions county college? Do we assess—let's look at the SATs. The average SAT for African-Americans is 750. Do we set standards in the future so that we don't admit anybody with the national test? Or do we deal with a disadvantaged population that doesn't have that genetic hereditary background to have a higher average."

-Francis L. Lawrence to Camden Faculty, November 11, 1994

Francis L. Lawrence became the eighteenth president of Rutgers, in the fall of 1990. His administration was not a popular one. Students and faculty had expressed dissatisfaction on various issues such as tuition and administrative policy during his term in office. However, it was his utterance of three words, "genetic hereditary background," which ignited a firestorm of protest and criticism.

President Lawrence addressed a Camden faculty meeting on November 11, 1994. During his speech, he made comments that included the phrase, "genetic hereditary background," referring to low African-American SAT scores. It was not until January 31, 1995 when Robert Braun, a Rutgers College graduate and a columnist for the Star-Ledger, made the remarks public that the controversy erupted. Reaction was swift and widespread. There were apologies, calls for his resignation, and statements of support for the beleaguered president. Rallies and protests were held both on and off campus. Demonstrations disrupted the Board of Governors meeting, caused the suspension of a February 7th men's basketball game, and blocked traffic on Route 18 leading to the arrest and trial of Rutgers University students. A hunger strike was held. Tensions on campus were high and the situation built up racial divides among the student population. There was an increase in reported bias incidents. The media spotlight was intense and race relations at Rutgers were closely examined in the press. A bomb exploded in the basement of the Mabel Douglass Library on the Douglass College campus of Rutgers and two more explosive devices were found in Rutgers libraries, as numerous bomb threats were received throughout the semester. The calm of the commencement exercises in May 1995 brought the turbulent semester to an end. However, it was not the end of trouble for President Lawrence. A decline in African-American enrollment at Rutgers and fewer black students accepting aid or scholarships to attend Rutgers were attributed to Lawrence's remarks. A diversity program proposed to heal wounds was initiated with the dissemination of a report titled the Multicultural Blueprint. Faculty dissatisfaction with Lawrence on academic issues and the university budget continued. There was a call by the NAACP for Lawrence's resignation in August 1995. The Board of Governors reaffirmed support for Lawrence in September 1995. Lawrence continued as president of Rutgers until his resignation in 2002, after which he stayed at Rutgers in the capacity of University Professor.

President Lawrence's controversial remarks which so inflamed the Rutgers community and beyond were perceived by many as reflecting theories proposed in the The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by R. J. Herrnstein and C. Murray (1994). Their controversial conjectures linking genetics and performance prompted much discussion, articles and research.

  • November 11, 1994: Dr. Francis L. Lawrence, President of Rutgers University, in an address before Camden faculty uses the phrase "genetic hereditary background" to explain low SAT scores for African-Americans.
  • January 31, 1995: The Rutgers Council of the AAUP distributes tapes of Lawrence's remarks. Robert Braun breaks the story in the Star-Ledger.
  • February 1, 1995: Lawrence issues formal apology. 500 students march through campus and demand his resignation. 700 students gather at the Busch Campus Center to plan action.
  • February 2, 1995: Lawrence appears at Newark and New Brunswick campuses and apologizes to students, faculty, and staff. Some students walk out rejecting his apology.
  • February 5, 1995: Universitywide Black and Latino Coalition formed at New Brunswick Meeting
  • February 6, 1995: Paul Robeson, Jr. requests forgiveness for Lawrence's remarks and asks for calm.
  • February 7, 1995: Rutgers vs. U Mass men's basketball game at the Louis Brown Athletic Center disrupted by student protest sit-in, causing suspension of the game.
  • February 10, 1995: The Rutgers Board of Governors issues statement of support for University President Lawrence while some students scuffle with police.
  • February 27, 1995: Protest rally led by former NAACP head, Benjamin Chavis, held on steps of State House in Trenton calling for Lawrence's resignation.
  • March 17, 1995: Lawrence announces creation of a multicultural college-based committee.
  • April 4, 1995: Small bomb explodes in an unoccupied basement level of the Mabel Smith Douglass Library on the Douglass College campus. No injuries are reported.
  • April 5, 1995: Several bomb threats are received following the Douglass Library blast.
  • April 7, 1995: A second bomb placed inside hollowed-out book in Douglass Library is removed without incident.
  • April 12, 1995: Students participate in "Day of Outrage" calling for Lawrence's resignation. Protestors disrupt traffic during Route 18 demonstration.
  • May 12, 1995: Eleven Rutgers University students charged with disorderly conduct stemming from April 12th protest.
  • May 21, 1995: Commencement exercises proceed without incident
  • May 24, 1995: Third bomb discovered among books in the Paul Robeson Library on the Rutgers-Camden campus. This is the third time in two months that an explosive device has been planted on Rutgers. The FBI, city and county authorities, and the Rutgers police investigate.
  • June 9, 1995: Board of Governors adopts the Multicultural Blueprint, an outline of a diversity program submitted by Lawrence to ease tensions around the university.
  • August 1995: NAACP calls for Lawrence's resignation.
  • September 18, 1995: Board of Governors issue statement of support for Lawrence in response to faculty petition calling for his removal.
  • February 29, 1996: Trial begins for three students for charges stemming from April 12, 1995 protest.

From the guide to the Guide to the Walton R. Johnson Papers, 1949-2001, bulk 1995-1999, (Rutgers University. Special Collections and University Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Johnson, Walton R. The Walton R. Johnson papers, 1949-2001 ; 1995-1999 (bulk). Rutgers University
creatorOf Guide to the Walton R. Johnson Papers, 1949-2001, bulk 1995-1999 Rutgers University. Special Collections and University Archives.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Association of University Professors. corporateBody
associatedWith Asbury Park Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Associated Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Chavis, Ben, 1948- person
associatedWith Chicago Tribune corporateBody
associatedWith Daily Targum corporateBody
associatedWith Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. person
associatedWith Lawrence, Francis L. person
associatedWith Lawrence, Francis L. person
associatedWith Lee, Wen Ho person
associatedWith Lee, Wen Ho. person
associatedWith New Jersey Public Interest Research Group. corporateBody
associatedWith New York Times corporateBody
associatedWith New York Times Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Pratto, Felicia person
associatedWith Pratto, Felicia. person
associatedWith Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976. person
associatedWith Rutgers University corporateBody
associatedWith Thomas, Clarence, 1948- person
associatedWith United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith Whitman, Christine Todd person
associatedWith Whitman, Christine Todd. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New Jersey
New Jersey--New Brunswick
Subject
Stereotype (Psychology)in mass media
Stereotype (Psychology)
Student protestors
Discimination in justice administration
Racial profiling in law enforcement
Stereotypes (Social psychology)
Race discrimination
Universities and colleges--New Jersey--Admission Statistics
Universities and colleges--Entrance examinations
College students--Political activity
Campus violence
Universities and colleges--Admission Statistics
SAT (Educational test)
Student protesters
Discrimination in law enforcement
Discrimination in higher education
Discrimination in justice administration
Campus violence--New Jersey--New Brunswick
African American college students
Stereotypes (Social psychology) in mass media
Occupation
Function

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Birth 1938

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English

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