Another Light on the Hill Black Students at Tufts

Brooks Johnson

Brooks Johnson, graduate of the class of 1956, is one of Tufts most successful athletes. In 1955 he held the national intercollegiate record for the 60-yard dash and in 1960 set the world record; and three years later he was awarded the gold medal for the 400-meter relay in the Pan American games. After serving in the military, he moved to Washington D.C. in ’64 to become a program officer for the Governmental Affairs Institute. There he became the athletic director, coach and teacher at St. Alban’s School and inspired many of his students to push themselves to work on their track skills. His students went on to win five national titles, set eight world records, and eleven of them went on to compete in the 1972 Olympics. In 1979, he became the first black head coach for both the men and women’s track and field teams at Stanford University. For his service to Tufts and the community at large, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal during the 1985 homecoming celebrations. In his acceptance speech he said, “The two biggest influences in my life were my mother and Tufts University.”

Johnson was involved in many activities during his four years on campus. He was a member of the Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity, the sophomore honor society Sword and Shield, was on the student council for two years, and was part of the Tufts Weekly staff where he published articles about racial prejudice. His three-part series titled “On Racial Prejudice” was printed in the Tufts Weekly from October 28, 1954- November 12, 1954. In this series he discussed the causes, effects, and cures to the racial prejudice present during his time. In an article titled "N'Dam Near White," Johnson presented a story that highlighted the experiences of black men caused by colorism. Not only was Johnson an amazing athlete, he was also a brilliant student that provoked insightful conversations on campus.


Biography written and researched by Alejandra Garcia.


Vertical File Collection. Vertical files, J. Johnson, Brooks T. 1956. UA073.010.VF.00098. Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

Vertical File Collection. Vertical files, J. Johnson, Brooks T. 1956. UA073.010.VF.00099. Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

Tufts Weekly vol.59. 28 Oct. 1954. Page 1.

Tufts Weekly vol.59. 4 Nov. 1954. Page 3.

Tufts Weekly vol.59. 12 Nov. 1954. Page 3.

The Tuftonian vol. 13, no. 3. Spring 1957. Page 24

Tufts Journal vol. 7, no. 2. 17 Oct. 1985. Pages 3, 6