- Democratic Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
- Member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Views America as a nation awash in racism
Hank Johnson Jr. was born on October 2, 1954 in Washington, DC. He earned a BS at Clark College in 1976 and a JD at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 1979. Johnson subsequently worked for twelve years as an associate judge in the DeKalb County (Georgia) Magistrate Court; five years as DeKalb County commissioner; three years as chair of the DeKalb County budget committee; and a number of years as a criminal and civil litigator for the Johnson and Johnson Law Group. In 2008 he served as co-chair of the Barack Obama Presidental Campaign in Georgia.
After defeating incumbent Cynthia McKinney in the 2006 Democratic primary race for Georgia’s 4th Congressional District seat, Johnson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He has held that post ever since, and is a member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In September 2009, Johnson demanded that Republican Representative Joe Wilson be censured for having shouted “You lie!” during the portion of Barack Obama’s healthcare-related speech to Congress where the President pledged that his proposed reforms would not extend health insurance to illegal immigrants. Charging that Wilson’s outburst had racial undertones, Johnson argued that if the congressman was not formally rebuked, “we will have people with white hoods running through the countryside again.”
On December 22, 2009, Johnson was one of 33 U.S. Representatives who signed a letter to Hillary Clinton, calling on the Secretary of State to pressure the Israeli government to end its ban on Palestinian student travel from Gaza to the West Bank. “We applaud your efforts to support educational opportunities for Palestinian youth, including your initiative to increase U.S. funding for Palestinian universities and educational programs in Gaza and the West Bank,” added the letter.
In March 2012, not long after a “white Hispanic” neighborhood-watch captain named George Zimmerman had shot and killed a black teenager named Trayvon Martin in an altercation that mushroomed into a natonal media obsession, Johnson claimed that Martin had been “executed for WWB in a GC—Walking While Black in a Gated Community.”
In November 2012, Johnson—angered by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission ruling which held that corporations have a right to freedom of political speech—condemned American corporations for seeking to “control” people’s “patterns of thinking” via media “messages” that teach them to “hate [their] government.” To remedy this problem, Johnson called for “a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to control the so-called free speech rights of corporations.”
In January 2013, Johnson charged that racism lay at the heart of the National Rifle Association’s opposition to the gun-control legislation which President Obama was advocating. “First of all, he is a black,” said Johnson. “And as a black person being the president of the United States, that is something they [the NRA] still cannot get over.”
In June 2013, Johnson condemned black Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for voting to strike from the 1965 Voting Rights Act a provision that designated which parts of the country needed to have any proposed changes to their election laws pre-cleared by the federal government or a federal court. (Click here for details of that provision and its ramifications.) By Johnson’s reckoning, Thomas’s “offense” was “worse” than that of the infamous National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Moreover, Johnson called it a “tragedy” that Thomas, a conservative, had repeatedly issued decisions that were “to the detriment of the African-American community.”
In December 2014 Johnson told a radio interviewer, “Barack Obama has been one of the greatest presidents that we have had in the history of this nation. It’s unfortunate that since he raised his hand and took the oath in his first inauguration, that he’s been met with nothing but opposition, and confrontation, and actual, personal dehumanization.” Further, the congressman condemned the popular black conservative and Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson for: (a) “trying to tap into the ignorance of people who have been whipped into a frenzy, like a lynch mob,” and (b) appealing “to the lowest common denominator” of the human spirit.
In January 2015, Johnson went to the House floor to argue against the Regulatory Accountability Act, a bill aiming to require federal agencies to give advance notice of proposed regulations that were likely to have a substantial impact on the U.S. economy. Characterizing the 85,000+ pages of regulations that are added to the Federal Register each year as “the things that help make America a great country,” the congressman declared: “Don’t think that regulations are hurting you. Regulations are causing what benefits you are taking advantage of now.”
That same month, Johnson objected vehemently when Republican House Speaker John Boehner—without first asking President Obama for his approval—invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress about the gravity of the growing Iranian nuclear threat and his (Netanyahu’s) “profound disagreement” with the negotiated deal that the Obama Administration was pursuing with Iran. Specifically, Johnson took exception to “President Barack Obama being a black man disrespected by a foreign leader.”
At a Congressional Progressive Caucus forum in March 2015, Johnson spoke about the recent rise of ISIL, the barbaric Islamic terrorist group that had overrun vast swaths of Iraq since President Obama—against the recommendations of his military advisors—withdrew all remaining U.S. troops from that country in December 2011. “A lot of people want to blame ISIL on the President, but its not truly his fault,” said Johnson. “He did exactly what needed to be done.”
In April 2015, after a white South Carolina police officer was charged with murder after fatally shooting a fleeing black man in the back during a traffic stop, Johnson said: “It feels like open season on black men in America and I’m outraged. In fact, all Americans are at risk when bad actors in law enforcement use their guns instead of their heads.”
Johnson revisited this theme in July 2015, when he said: “I believe it’s a culture that enables or says it’s okay for law-enforcement officers to shoot to kill blacks, be they male or female, Hispanics—to use excessive force. Yes, I do think it’s a cultural issue within certain departments.”
In January 2016, Johnson went to the House floor to speak against the Sunshine For Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act. “There has been a movement over the last 30, 40 years to turn people against the government,” he said. “This mantra is that government is too big, we don’t need any rules to govern human conduct, let everything work itself out and the free market system will make it rain for everybody. Well, we’ve seen after 30, 40 years of practicing that free market way of thinking, that it doesn’t work.” Added Johnson: “This is what this legislation is about—is gutting the rule-making process. This is one of many attempts—incessant attempts—by my friends on the other side to try and cut government and so that their friends in big business on Wall Street can make it rain for the rest of us. But they don’t make it rain for anybody but themselves.”
During a six-day tour to East Jerusalem and Ramallah sponsored by the Palestinian group MIFTAH in the spring of 2016, Johnson was one of five U.S. congressmen who met with Shawan Jabarin, a longtime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine operative who had since served as: the general director of Al-Haq, a vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights, a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East Advisory Board, and a commissioner for the International Commission of Jurists. The other congressmen who met with Jabarin included Democrats Luis Gutierrez, Mark Pocan, Matt Cartwright, and Dan Kildee.
“There has been a steady [stream], almost like termites can get into a residence and eat before you know that you’ve been eaten up and you fall in on yourself, there has been settlement activity that has marched forward with impunity and at an ever increasing rate, to the point where it has become alarming. It has come to the point that occupation, with highways that cut through Palestinian land, with walls that go up, with the inability or the restriction, with the illegality of Palestinians being able to travel on those roads and those roads cutting off Palestinian neighborhoods from each other. And then with the building of walls and the building of check points that restrict movement of Palestinians. We’ve gotten to the point where the thought of a Palestinian homeland gets further and further removed from reality.”
Referring to claims that Israeli settlers routinely plotted to seize Palestinian land, Johnson added: “You see one home after another being appropriated by Jewish people who come in to claim that land just because somebody did not spend the night there. The home their [Palestinian] ancestors lived in for generations becomes an Israeli home and a flag goes up, [but] the Palestinians are barred from flying flags in their own neighborhoods.”
In November 2016, The Daily Caller asked Johnson to comment on the fact that Rep. Keith Ellison, who was seeking to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee, had once advocated the creation of a geographically self-contained “homeland” for black people. “I don’t see anything really objectionable,” Johnson replied. “What he [Ellison] apparently proposed was a partitioning of the United States into a southeastern section.” When asked if Ellison’s proposal constituted black nationalism, Johnson said: “I don’t know what to call it. It seems to have been born out of academia, a thoughtful discussion on possibilities.” “These are not ideas that have not been discussed by black folks throughout history,” Johnson added, noting that he himself would have supported such a plan during his college days.
In a January 1, 2019 speech at a Baptist church in Atlanta, Johnson likened President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. Among his remarks were the following:
- “Much like how Hitler took over the Nazi party, Trump has taken over the Republican Party.”
- “Hitler was accepting of violence towards the achievement of political objectives. Trump encouraged violence against protesters at his rallies.”
- “Americans, particularly black Americans, can’t afford to make that same mistake about the harm that could be done by a man named Hitler or a man named Trump.”
- “Americans elected an authoritarian, an anti-immigrant, racist strongman to the nation’s highest office. Donald Trump and his ‘Make America Great Again’ followers…want to return American back to a time where white men and white privilege were unchallenged, and where minorities and women were in their place.”
For an overview of Congressman Johnson’s voting record on an array of key issues, click here.
For additional information on Hank Johnson Jr., click here.