Charles A. Johnson has been a native of Blacksburg, Virginia for 83 years. He graduated at top of his barbering class from Christiansburg Institute in 1952 – the regions only secondary and vocational school for African Americans, until desegregation in 1966. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Army drafted Mr. Johnson into the Korean War. Charles spent a year in Korea and Japan as a military barber. It was there where he honed his skills as a barber, learning how to cut and style a variety of different types of hair. Mr. Johnson was discharged from the desegregated military world in 1955 and returned to Blacksburg where Jim Crow was still very present.
Back in Blacksburg, VA there few businesses that would open their doors to African Americans. Charles saw a need and decided lug his barber equipment around, going from house to house in black neighborhoods, cutting hair in the living rooms and kitchens of his clients.
When Johnson started work in the Tech Barbershop on Virginia Tech’s campus in 1956, he was not able to serve African American students until after closing time at 6pm. Frustrated with his work situation, Mr. Johnson decided that had to change, in 1962, he began giving haircuts to African American students during his normal working hours, alongside their white counterparts. Mr. Johnson’s supervisor overlooked Charles’ defiance. Allowing Mr. Johnson the sole responsibility of integrating the Tech Barbershop, only years before desegregation became the law of the land.
Charles Johnson left Virginia Tech in 1973 to open his own shop. He opened Town and Campus Barber Shop on January 3, 1974, and three years later changed the name to New Image. For years, New Image operated on Main Street and in 2000 moved to Collegiate Square Shopping Center. New Image Barbers/Stylist is now celebrating 41 years of service to the New River Valley Area and over 50 years of service to the Virginia Tech Corp Cadets.New Image is a place where you can laugh, talk and be yourself; it is a place for people from all walks of life. In August of 2015 Mr. Johnson decided to broaden his entrepreneurial horizons and open another location in Historical Downtown Blacksburg.