About the Director

The founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities, Sylvester A. Johnson

The founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities, Sylvester A. Johnson
The founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities, Sylvester A. Johnson

About the Director

The founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities, Sylvester A. Johnson, is a nationally recognized humanities scholar specializing in the study of race, religion, and technology.

Before moving to Virginia Tech, Johnson was promoted to the rank of professor in the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Religious Studies at Northwestern University. Johnson served as the director of the Center for African American History at Northwestern, where he administered an annual budget, convened board meetings, engaged with external entities, developed an annual series of guest lectures, planned research colloquia, and advanced the general mission of that center to promote research in Black history. His collaborative research experience includes leading an artificial intelligence development project at Northwestern University, which involved a transdisciplinary team of humanities experts and software engineers.

Johnson is a founding co-editor of the Journal of Africana Religions. He has authored two books: African American Religions, 1500–2000: Colonialism, Democracy, and Freedom, published by Cambridge University Press in 2015 and a winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award, and The Myth of Ham in Nineteenth-Century American Christianity: Race, Heathens, and the People of God, a 2004 Palgrave MacMillan publication that garnered the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book Award. Johnson also recently co-edited, with Steven Weitzman, The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11, which the University of California Press published in February.

During 2018 and 2019, he will serve as a mentor for the nationally acclaimed Young Scholars of American Religions fellows program administered by the Center for the Study of Religion in American Culture at Indiana University–Purdue University in Indianapolis.

Johnson holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in contemporary religious thought from the Union Theological Seminary, where he also earned an M.Phil. in systematic theology. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and education at Florida A&M University.