Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson is Winthrop Professor of History and a professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University. His first book, Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market (1999), uses the slave market as a way to think about the fantasies, fears, negotiations, and violence that characterized American slavery. His most recent book, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Imperialism in the Mississippi Valley (2013), retains a focus on the immediate experience of slavery and mastery. It also embeds the history of American slavery in the histories of global capitalism, especially the cotton trade and the Atlantic money market, and U.S. imperialism, including the Louisiana Purchase, the illegal invasions of Cuba and Nicaragua in the 1850s, and the effort to reopen the Atlantic slave trade on the eve of the Civil War. He has also written a series of essays about social and historical theory relating to the history of slavery in the United States; on the idea of "agency" as the organizing theme of scholarship; on notions of time; on theories of capitalism and slavery; and on the idea of reparations for slavery as a historical narrative. Johnson grew up in Columbia, Missouri, and is currently writing a book about the history of St. Louis from Lewis and Clark to Michael Brown.

Twitter: @abufelix12.


  • Racial Capitalism, Indian Hating, and the Imperium of St. Louis
  • Racial Capitalism
  • What Does It Mean to Say that Slavery "De-Humanized" Africans and African Americans?
  • Fergonomics: Public Policy, Private Privilege, and Structural Racism in Missouri's Most Notorious City


Ferguson's Fortune 500 Company: Structural Racism in Missouri's Most Notorious City

(audio only) Presented as the 2017 Richard D. McKinzie Lecture, sponsored by University of Missouri-Kansas City's Center for Midwestern Studies, Bernardin Haskell Lecture Fund, History Department, and High School/College Partnerships. Recording courtesy Kansas City Public Library.

Visit the OAH YouTube channel for more audio and video recordings.