Scope and arrangement
The A. Newell Johnson papers date from the 1920s to the 1980s (bulk dates 1950s-1970s) and consist of correspondence, notes, articles, reports, clippings, photographs, audiovisual materials, and ephemera.
The collection is made up of various subjects that collectively document Johnson's professional endeavors, personal relationships, and interest in the advancement of black people. The more prominent files relate to the Abyssinian Baptist and Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Churches; electrical and radio engineering; news writing; politics; and public relations and publicity.
Church materials contain Johnson's audio recordings of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.'s sermons at the Abyssinian Baptist Church; and programs from their Sunday worship services, special church events, and Powell's funeral (1972). There are copies of The Abyssinian publication, including the 1964 September edition that featured the "Inspiration in Mississippi" article written by Johnson (box 7, folder 10). Johnson's work as secretary of the Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church is documented through meeting minutes, the Concerns of the Church newsletters, and information on the 1980s church merger.
Electrical and Radio Engineering files hold Johnson's course work, including the "Mobile Two-Way Radio" report (box 31, folder 10), and the rhombic antenna design notes (box 31, folder 11). Further studies are accounted for through manuals, diagrams, and notes on topics such as communication receivers, power supplies, transmission, and soldering. There are also Johnson Electronics Engineering Laboratories business correspondence, bill statements, and lab building plans.
News Writing primarily recounts Johnson's editorial work at the Sun Reporter through a few letters from other editors; publicity stills from various entertainers; handwritten drafts and typewritten versions of his Mambo Roundups on weekly entertainment happenings; preparatory notes for an interview with Lena Horne in 1955 (box 52, folder 6); and some clippings of his printed articles.
Politics reflect Johnson's support of certain candidates, and his work on a few political campaigns. Featured are ephemera from Powell's campaigns; and correspondence, flyers, photos, and notes from Addie Green's campaign. Within the collection, some of the political materials overlap with civil rights activism items, demonstrated through the photographs of a Harlem march for Selma, Alabama; and Martin Luther King, Jr. with Powell at Abyssinian. Johnson's NAACP membership is reflected through newsletters, memos, meeting agendas, and his conference reports.
Public Relations and Publicity files detail Johnson's attempts to secure and maintain clients. There are drafts of the article "We Found Gold on that Gold Coast" by musician Louis Armstrong and his wife (as told to Johnson); and the subsequent correspondence from Armstrong's press agent and personal manager negating an informal publicity arrangement Johnson supposedly made with Armstrong. The public relations work done for musician B.B. King is noted through information sheets, letters King sent introducing Johnson, press releases, expense statements, and correspondence regarding King's request to be released from their agreement. Johnson's publicity work for Mahalia Jackson is documented through a draft of a six-month campaign, and a photo of the two together. Also included are Zeta Phi Beta Sorority convention materials, and photocopies of a couple of letters written to Johnson from entertainer Josephine Baker.
The Harlem Fire Safety Program and the Morningside Parents Association files represent Johnson's work with various community organizations. There are information sheets, workshop manuals, and financial records from the Harlem Fire Safety Program; and syllabi, session outlines, lesson plans, and memos from Johnson's Morningside Parents Association courses. Present are also correspondence, articles, and notes related to the HARYOU-ACT organization.
Additionally, the personal papers contain notes about Johnson's life, family photographs and films, and correspondence. There are outgoing romantic letters; letters from his brother Eldridge Johnson; letters from his sister Cleodel Russell; letters from his wife Eleanor Johnson; and an ongoing exchange with his daughters once they were adults.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by subject.