E. Patrick Johnson, a professor of Performance Studies in the School of Communication and award-winning author and performer, has been named the Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies.
“One of the things you strive for when you become an academic is to do good work and to have that work recognized,” Johnson said. “To be honored in this way with an endowed chair is really wonderful. And because of this particular chair, which was named after Carlos Montezuma, who was the first Native American to earn a medical degree from Northwestern, it carries special weight. I hope I can do his name justice.”
Montezuma, who graduated from Northwestern in 1889, spent much of his life as an advocate for residents of Indian reservations and an outspoken opponent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which imposed substandard living conditions for many Native Americans during that time.
Johnson has spent much of his career working to give a voice to those who have traditionally been voiceless, addressing issues of race, class, gender and performance. His first book, Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity, won several awards including the Lilla A. Heston Award, the Errol Hill Book Award, and was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. He was recognized for his contributions to the LGBT community by being inducted into the LGBT Chicago Hall of Fame in 2010.
Johnson recently toured college campuses performing “Pouring Tea: Black Gay Men of the South Tell Their Tales,” a staged reading based on his book Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South. He also adapted Sweet Tea to the stage as a fully realized theatre piece. Most recently, he did a four-week run at the Tony-award winning Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.
“Sweet Tea is the gift that keeps on giving in terms of making an impact in the field,” Johnson said. “It’s the first book to chronicle the lives of black gay southerners. When I started performing the story, it opened up a whole new audience.”
Johnson also recently returned to Australia to perform with the gospel choir he followed in his book Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity. In his book, published in 2003, he addressed blackness as an identity both inside and outside of African-American culture.
Johnson has several other writing projects in the works as well and says he hopes to continue to explore new territory as the Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance studies.
“This chair really does represent the commitment that Northwestern has to diversity,” he said. “It also represents the kind of diversity that we have maintained over the years in Performance Studies, particularly amongst our graduates. We’re the most diverse department in that regard at the university, and now, half of our faculty are persons of color, and no other performance studies department can say that in the country. So all of this is wonderful to have happen at the very moment when we are making strides in diversifying our student body and our faculty.”