Thomas L. Johnson

Thomas L. Johnson was a mid-19th century black writer, missionary, and activist who not only revealed to Europeans the inner workings of American slavery, but also laid bare the many failings of American society. We have no other biographical information about Thomas L. Johnson, other than what is written in his autobiography, Born Three Times. However, Johnson has done a splendid job in giving us insight into how blacks looked at their plight, how they viewed America and the rest of the world. We know that he was born in 1836 in Virginia. His mother was black, and his father was of mixed race (an octoroon, i.e. one-eighth Negro), but a free man. Johnson was given his freedom by the Emancipation Act, and went to live in England, a place which he used as a base to carry out remarkable missionary work, much of it in Africa. Although he acknowledged, that as a black man his racial homeland was in Africa, he appears to have experienced remarkably little resonance with the culture he encountered during his missionary work there. Even more surprisingly, Johnson felt his real place was in England, a land with which he had absolutely no racial, ethnic or cultural affiliations. His memoir Born Three Times discusses these and other issues with surprising depth and astuteness.

Books by Thomas L. Johnson Published in a New Edition:

Born Three Times

More information on Born Three Times