One perspective of the American Dream

Published 9:31 pm Monday, August 27, 2012

Henry Vanderbilt Johnson Jr.’s book tells story of the educator’s life journey. (Photo courtesy of Henry Vanderbilt Johnson Jr.)

An Engelhard native will sign copies of his 282-page book “Kronicles of a Kolored Kid” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Spencer’s True Value store in Engelhard.
“Essentially, it’s a chronicle, a journey what it took to become Dr. Johnson — scrubbing floors, washing dishes, working nights, working in potato fields and cucumber fields in Engelhard. The struggle to persevere during times of poverty and significant challenge,” said author Henry Vanderbilt Johnson Jr., 60, about his book.
Johnson has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Virginia Tech. The book also looks at his experience and work at East Carolina University, where he earned an education-specialist degree. He has two education-related degrees from N.C. A&T State University. He is an associate professor and coordinator of middle-school grades and secondary education at Elizabeth City State University.
Johnson also is the author of an academic publication,“Rap Music: Popular Perceptions and Its Affect on the Lives of Adolescents Attending Jackson Middle and Grimsley High Schools of Guilford County, North Carolina,” a 438-page book published by Virginia Tech.
Johnson grew up in eastern North Carolina. His mother, Belle Johnson, 89, lives in Engelhard. He is the middle child with four other siblings. His father, 21-year Army veteran Henry Vanderbilt Johnson Sr., is dead.
Johnson explains why he wrote the book and what he hopes it will accomplish.
“Having grown up in Hyde County and recognizing that Hyde County is one of the poorest counties in the state of North Carolina, pretty much I wanted to convey to my peers and the younger generation that if you take academics seriously and treat people in a kind a decent manner, you don’t have to be a product of the more impoverished community and that one does not have to sell drugs and engage in illegal activity to get some of the finer things in life,” Johnson said. “I’m speaking from the perspective of the black community. It’s not uncommon for many of the young brothers to get involved in the drug trade and then find themselves incarcerated.”
Johnson said the book’s message is there’s another way to get those finer things in life, but one has to work hard to do that.
“One does not have to engage in illegal activity to gain some of the things we deem symbolic and having to achieve,” he said.
The book also describes the educator’s problems with the educational system he experienced while growing up, his encounters with the Ku Klux Klan

“Kronicles of a Kolored Kid” is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and other sources.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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