posted September 6, 2005

Historian Fred Johnson Authors New Novel

Dr. Fred L. Johnson III, assistant professor of history at Hope College, has written his third novel, "Other Men's Wives," published earlier this year by One World/Ballantine Books of New York City.

The story centers on the response of protagonist Denmark Wheeler to the infidelity of his wife, Sierra. As the book begins, Wheeler has a good life that stands in contrast to his difficult childhood. Raised in the Cleveland ghetto, his father shot by a drug addict, he worked the streets to help his sister through college. In the present day, though, he has a respectable job and a wife that he loves passionately. However, the arrival of a DVD that shows Sierra being intimate with another man, whose face is deliberately blurred, shatters his world. Wheeler is filled with grief and rage and determines to find the identity of the man so that he can exact revenge. It is obvious to him that it is someone close to him, perhaps even one of his two best friends.

"Other Men's Wives" is Johnson's third novel. "Essence" called his first, "Bittersweet," which was published early in 2002, "a book to curl up with on a winter evening... an appealing tale of sibling rivalry and revelry from a man's perspective." His second, "A Man Finds His Way," published early in 2003, was praised by "Publisher's Weekly" as "a thoughtful take on some tough contemporary issues in job politics and race relations."

Johnson has also earned acclaim as a Hope professor. During the college's most recent Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 8, he received the 41st annual "Hope Outstanding Professor Educator" (H.O.P.E.) Award from the graduating Class of 2005. During Homecoming in October of 2002, the student body elected him recipient of the "Favorite Faculty/Staff Member" Award.

Johnson joined the Hope faculty in the fall of 2000. His primary field is 19th century U.S. history, specifically the Confederacy during the Civil War. His other areas of study include the U.S. in the 20th century, the U.S. military and Africa.

He has been working with Dr. David Schock of the Hope communication faculty for three years to create a documentary that examines the history of the Ku Klux Klan in Michigan. The first segment, which focuses on the Reconstruction era, premiered on campus in October in conjunction with the national 24th Biennial Conference of the Conference on Faith and History. Johnson was the conference's local arrangements chair.

Johnson is currently revising his doctoral dissertation for publication. Titled "The Tracks of War: Confederate Rail Policy and the Struggle for the Baltimore & Ohio," the work is a case study of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad during the Civil War to determine whether or not, or to what extent, the Confederate government had a definitive strategy against it and other United States railroads. He has also been conducting research for "Eagle on the Continent: U.S. Foreign Policy in Africa, 1945-Present," part of which included his attending the War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, where alleged perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide are currently standing trial. Johnson is also interested in writing definitive biographies on Henry O. Flipper, who was born a slave and in 1877 became the first black graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Michael Healy, who, also born a slave, became the first black captain in the United States Revenue Cutter Service, a forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Johnson grew up in the Washington, D.C., metro area. He received his bachelor's degree from Bowie State College in Maryland, and his master's and doctorate from Kent State University in Ohio. His past career experiences include serving as a corporate trainer and as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

His community involvement includes serving on the board of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, serving on the Human Relations Council for the City of Holland, co-facilitating sessions of the Institute for Healing Racism (sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce), being a charter member of the newly organized Centennial Rotary Club, and serving as president of the Macatawa Toastmasters Club. This past April, after winning at several previous stages of competition, Johnson represented the Western District at the International Speech Contest, at which he took third place.

He delivered the college's Commencement address in May of 2003. In January of this year, he was among the faculty who made presentations during the college's annual Winter Happening, discussing "Eagle on the Continent: U.S. Foreign Policy in Africa, 1945 to Present."

"Other Men's Wives" is available in trade paperback for $13.95.