Ellen Johnson

Ellen Johnson

Sirleaf, Ellen Johnson, 1938-, Liberian political leader. Educated in the United States (Harvard, M.P.A., 1971), she worked in the Liberian government (1964-67, 1977-80), at the World Bank (1972-77, 1980-81), and in private banking (1980, 1986-92) before before joining (1992-97) the African bureau at the United Nations Development Program. Also active in Liberian politics, she was jailed in the 1980s by Samuel Doe's regime, charged with treason by Charles Taylor's regime, and twice went into exile. She ran for Liberian president in 1997 but lost to Taylor, whom she had supported when Doe was in power, and returned to the private sector as a financial consultant. Running again in 2005, she defeated former soccer star George Weah after a runoff, becoming the first woman to be elected president of an African nation.

See her memoir, This Child Will Be Great (2009).

Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists from 1995–2008, is an activist for atheist rights and the separation of church and state in the United States.


Johnson has been active in American Atheists organization since 1978. She describes herself as a "second-generation atheist" and a life-long atheist. Her educational background consists of Bachelor's Degrees in Environmental Studies and Political Science, and a Master's Degree in Political Science from The New School for Social Research.

Johnson took over as president in 1995 after then-president and founder Madalyn Murray O'Hair went missing along with her son and granddaughter (they were later found to have been abducted and murdered by two ex-convicts).

In November 2002, Johnson announced the formation of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee (GAMPAC), a PAC to endorse political candidates who support the separation of church and state. She is the executive director of that organization.

Starting in 1994, she was the co-host of The Atheist Viewpoint, a television program, which is available "on dozens of cable systems throughout the nation and on the Internet."

On December 20, 2005 she appeared on an ABC special, "Heaven – Where Is It? How Do We Get There?", for which she was interviewed by Barbara Walters. She appeared on Larry King Live in April 2005, Good Morning America in December 2005, MSNBC's Scarborough Country on December 14, 2004, and appeared on Fox News three times in November and December 2003, and MSNBC's Phil Donahue.

On May 2, 2008 it was announced on the American Atheists blog that Johnson was leaving her post as President. On May 7, 2008, it was made public that Ellen Johnson was removed involuntarily by a vote of the board of directors. The reason was not revealed.


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