Awards and Service
Ray and Pat Brown Award for Best Reference work for
Bordertown, Popular Culture
Association/American Culture Association, 2008
Ralph Hidy Award Forest History Society for best article in Environmental History, 2001
Prize for best dissertation in western history Yale,
“Escaping the Dark, Gray
City:” How Conservation Re-made City, Suburb, and
Countryside in the Progressive Era (under
contract, Yale University Press)
Bordertown: The Odyssey of an
American Place. With photographs by Jeffrey
Gusky. (Yale University Press, 2008)
Revolution in Texas: How a
Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression
Turned Mexicans into Americans. (Yale
University Press, 2003)
Major Problems in North
American Borderlands History (Houghton Mifflin,
under contract, 2011 publication expected)
Bridging National Borders in
North America. Co-edited with Andrew Graybill.
(Duke University Press, forthcoming 2010)
Making of the American West:
People and Perspectives (ABC-CLIO, 2007)
Journal Articles and Review
“Problems and Prospects in North
American Borderlands History,” History Compass
“Engendering Nation and Race in
the Borderlands,” Latin American Research Review
37:1 (2002): 259-271
“The Dark Side of American
Environmentalism.” Reviews in American History
(June 2001): 215-221
“Subsistence, Class, and
Conservation at the Birth of Superior National
Forest.” Environmental History 4:1 (January
1999). Republished in Louis Warren, ed.,
American Environmental History (Blackwell,
Chapters in Anthologies and
Co-author (with Andrew Graybill),
“Borders and Their Historians in North America,” in
Graybill and Johnson, eds., Bridging National
Borders in North America (Duke University Press,
“Conservation Reconsidered,” in
William Deverell and David Igler, eds., Blackwell
Companion to California History (Blackwell,
“Wilderness Parks and Their
Discontents,” in Michael Lewis, ed., American
Wilderness (Oxford University Press, 2007)
Professor Benjamin Johnson offers new perspectives on the emergence of the United States as a
diverse industrial power a century ago. His research examines familiar aspects of this history, such
as the rise of racial segregation and Progressive politics, from the standpoint of the newer fields of
borderlands and environmental history.
The central question in Johnson’s Revolution in Texas is how and why people of Mexican descent first came to think of themselves as U. S. citizens. He describes the 1915-16 Plan de San Diego, a series of ethnic Mexican raids on ranches, irrigation works, and railroads that quickly developed into a full-blown regional rebellion.
Vigilantes and Texas Rangers led a far bloodier counter-insurgency that included the indiscriminate harassment of ethnic Mexicans, the forcible relocation of rural residents, and mass executions that cost as many as several thousand lives.
Convinced of the futility of using violence to protect themselves from racial discrimination and economic oppression, many ethnic Mexicans sought constitutional rights and protection as American citizens. By turning his attention to the pioneers of the Mexican-American civil rights movement in Texas, Johnson asks how they were able to negotiate contrasting loyalties, both as proud heirs of Latin American culture and as deeply loyal Americans who held high expectations of what citizenship might mean for their people.
These sorts of border stories are central to the kind of nation that the United States is in the process of becoming. Once a tiny minority confined to the southwest, Americans of Latino descent will in fifty years make up a quarter of the national population.
Johnson also writes environmental history. His current research on early twentieth century conservation shows that it was a broad and ambitious
social movement that sought to restore Americans to direct access to nature in a range of landscapes, from dense industrial cities to leafy suburbs and remote wilderness.
This movement embodied both the lofty promises of democracy and the dark possibility of social control that lay at the heart of Progressivism. While some heralded conservation as a necessary corrective to environmental destruction, many rural Americans found that it forced them into greater reliance on large employers and the cash economy by depriving them of access to food and forage. Conservation thus left long legacies of anti-wilderness and anti-environmental sentiment across rural America.