Distinguished Lecturers
Ronald Angelo Johnson

Ronald Angelo Johnson

Ronald Angelo Johnson holds the Ralph and Bessie Mae Lynn Chair of History at Baylor University. He is a historian of early U.S. foreign relations who specializes in the history of the United States diplomacy during the American Revolution and the role of race and power in U.S. relations with Haiti. He is the author of Diplomacy in Black and White: John Adams, Toussaint Louverture, and Their Atlantic World Alliance (2014), the first history of the unlikely diplomatic alliance between the fledgling nations of the United States and Haiti. He is also the co-editor with Ousmane K. Power-Greene of In Search of Liberty: African American Internationalism in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (2021). In addition to authoring several chapters in edited collections, he has also published articles and book reviews in Diplomatic History, American Historical Review, Journal of Caribbean History, Journal of Haitian Studies, and Revue Française d’Études Américaines. He is currently the co-editor of the Journal of the Early Republic and writing a book on the changing dynamics of race and freedom during the American Revolution.

OAH Lectures by Ronald Angelo Johnson

As we approach the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution—dating from the 4th of July 1776—there are calls across academia and the public for more inclusion of Native, Black, and Latinx Americans in the history of the nation’s founding. Yet, some scholars and social influencers argue that early U.S. history told from the perspective of broader voices of people who lived in eighteenth-century North America represents a “woke” agenda, critical race theory, or a disruptive form of “political correctness.” This lecture illuminates the important ways that inclusion of voices from silenced founders, alongside those of more familiar figures, offers scholars, students, and the American public a richer, fuller appreciation for just how revolutionary the American Revolution and those who initiated it were.

The United States and Haiti were the first two modern nation-states established in the Western Hemisphere. Both nations were birthed from revolutions that produced exemplar declarations of independence and constitutions. Still, the history of the United States is told as a predominantly “white” history, and Haiti’s narrative is characterized as “Black” history. This lecture tells a different story. Shared histories of the United States and Haiti can put into sharp relief the realities, contradictions, and challenges of a dynamic, western Atlantic World emerging from beneath European colonization. Viewing the intertwined beginnings and sometimes violent, political evolutions in both nations can shed needed light on the mutual importance and present responsibilities of the United States and Haiti, one to the other.

As the American populace finds more and more ways to divide itself, some groups have virulently opposed the teaching of African American history in elementary and secondary schools. Other groups just as rigorously oppose granting greater access to Black history and literature to white American students. It is unfair to marginalize white Americans in their understanding of vital knowledge about the history and culture of the United States. Teaching African American history in K-12 institutions offers all students a greater appreciation for the challenges and resilience of the American experiment with democracy—begun in 1776 and continuing today.


More Distinguished Lectureship Program Resources