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Richard Malcolm Johnston, 1822-1898
Autobiography of Col. Richard Malcolm Johnston
Washington: The Neale Company, 1900.

Summary

Richard Malcolm Johnston was born in 1822 in Hancock County, Georgia. After graduating from Mercer College in 1841 as a member of its first class, he opened a rural school in Mount Zion. He moved to Augusta to study law and passed the bar in 1843, then returned to Hancock County to practice law and teach school. He later accepted a professorship at the University of Georgia, where he revolutionized the teaching of literature with his text, The English Classics (1860). Johnston supported the Confederacy during the Civil War and served on the Georgia governor's staff. He moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1867 and opened the Pen Lucy School. When his conversion to Roman Catholicism led to a drop in enrollment there, Johnston began writing to offset the financial damage. His work, Dukesborough Tales, published in 1871, brought him national attention, and after that he wrote several other books. He died in Baltimore in 1898.

The Autobiography of Richard Malcolm Johnston (1900) includes stories of Johnston's early life in Hancock County. Johnston tells readers that his home changed significantly when his father, a wealthy plantation owner, decided to become a Baptist minister at the age of thirty-five. Johnston says he took a year off from school to work in his father's fields alongside the slaves in order to improve his physical stature. He discusses his time at Mercer and at the University of Georgia. He mentions the Civil War and speaks briefly of his feelings about the emancipation of slaves and the dangers he believed it posed. He also gives accounts of his life in Baltimore and his experiences as a writer there. Johnston describes his relationships with several important figures of the Confederacy, including Robert Toombs, first Secretary of State and later critic of the Confederate government, and Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy.

Work Consulted: Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Harris Henderson

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