CHARLEST HIGGINS JOHNSON
CHARLEST HIGGINS JOHNSON was born in Dayton, Ohio, on December 2, 1898 to Rev. Charles D. Higgins and Jewelia Galloway Higgins. Charlest was a published poet whose numerous works include Echoes of Heart Throbs & Whispers of Love. In 1935, she was named “Who’s Who of American Poets.” She was a historian and member of the Ohio Poets Roundtable, the Ohio Poets Society, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Unique Study clubs and the League of Women Voters.
In 1942, she wrote, compiled and edited The Story of One Hundred Years of the First Wesleyan Methodist Church. A long-time resident of Washington, D.C., Higgins considered Eleanor Roosevelt and Langston Hughes “pen pals.” Hughes was also a mentor to Higgins and the two exchanged several poems throughout their careers.
At 19, Higgins married Ernest Johnson, Dayton’s first Master Plumber. In the 1930s, the couple purchased “The Old Castle on the Hill,” formerly located at 2603 Jerome Avenue in Dayton, Ohio. The Old Castle on the Hill was built by David Zeigler, a direct descendant of Major David Zeigler (also of the same name), a German immigrant and the first mayor of Cincinnati. There, within the orchards, they raised their ten children.
The Castle, a community gathering place well-known for its lending library and eclectic collection of rare antiques, was often visited by numerous Black Renaissance writers including Langston Hughes and J.A. Rogers. Rogers featured Charlest and “The Castle,” in The Pittsburgh Courier, noting her lyrical style and exquisite taste in rare antiques and art objects.
Higgins Johnson was a real estate investor who supported field-to-factory migrant workers in their transition to the North.