A native of Evanston, Illinois, Charles Johnson got his start as a political cartoonist, producing two cartoon collections, Black Humor (1970) and Half-Past Nation-Time (1972). He created and hosted the nationally syndicated PBS television show Charlie’s Pad, a series about the craft of cartooning that aired from 1970 to 1980.
Johnson is the author of numerous acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction. His short-story collection The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was nominated for the 1987 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Middle Passage, his 1990 novel, won the National Book Award. Johnson was one of a group of 12 Black authors (including Maya Angelou and Rita Dove) commemorated on a series of stamps created by the Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation and issued in Ghana and Uganda in 1997.
Johnson was awarded a MacArthur fellowship in 1998. In 2002, he received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature. He is professor emeritus at the University of Washington, where he began teaching in 1976.