The Man Behind the Name: The Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing

Elena Sorrentino   Editor-in-Chief

Many students know of the Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing, but how many know about the man it was named for? It was recently brought to my attention that even though the newspaper office is located within this important resource, I had never taken the time to acknowledge or look into the background of the namesake for it.

Arthur L. Johnson worked closely with Eastern’s late president Dr. David Carter for over 30 years. Starting in 1969 he acted as the special assistant to President Carter, and was instrumental in  building Eastern into the campus community that exists today. When speaking about Arthur Johnson, Carter is quoted in Monique Jarvis’ article, “The Conscience of the Community,” saying “He never backed away from involvement- he believed it was his civic duty. He really believed that people could make a difference.”

This quote clearly articulates the mission that Johnson embodied throughout his life. Born in Hartford in 1918, Johnson was a trailblazer for the Civil Rights Movement all over the country, but especially within Connecticut. In the 1930s he marched for the desegregation of theatres in New Haven; in the 1950s he became the president of the Hartford chapter of the NAACP; and in the 1960s he was appointed as Hartford’s first executive director to the Human Relations Commission.

However, according to “Arthur L. Johnson: The Conscience of the Community,” written by Dwight Bachman and Jerri Diance Eubank as part of the introduction to Dr. Johnson’s book of poetry, “his proudest accomplishment was the founding of Club Co-Op, a summer recreation-and-work activity program that enabled youngsters to earn money to buy new clothing to start the school year.” Proceeds from this book continue to supplement the Arthur L. Johnson fund, which supports students in need at Eastern.

Dwight Bachman, Eastern’s Public Relations Officer, says of Johnson, “You felt fabulous after listening to Art. He had a wholesome way of using imagery to eliminate negativity within you and make you feel brand new. He once told me during a conversation on racism, ‘you don’t have to turn around and bite every dog that barks at you.’ How refreshing! We’d all be healthier and achieve more if we followed his advice on this score.”

This legacy lives on through the work of the Unity Wing, which continues to promote equality and cross-cultural understanding. The Women’s Center, Pride Center, and Intercultural Center all have their offices located here. They host many events throughout the semester that can be found on the Cultural Celebrations Calendar. There are several upcoming events to look forward to, such as “Native America: ‘Cries to the Sky,’” on Sept. 26, which includes a preview to an episode of the PBS mini series Native America. Following that, on Oct. 3, there will be a poetry reading by Veteran Bruce Weigl, and a celebration of Indigenous People’s Day on Oct. 8.

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