University of Mississippi

Kirk A. Johnson

Associate Professor of Sociology,
Anthropology and African American Studies
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS  38677-1848

Phone: 662-915-5977
Office: Longstreet 305

Some might say my career is confused; I call it merely unconventional.  Since devising my own undergraduate major (in environmental science), I’ve worked as an environmental bureaucrat, a public-interest lobbyist, and an assistant to a governor’s science advisor.  I’ve written several popular books on minority health, edited an award-winning medical journal devoted to health care for the poor, researched news images of Boston’s black community, and served as senior researcher for the Emmy Award-winning PBS civil rights documentary, “Eyes on the Prize.”  In my doctoral dissertation at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I explored the resilient popularity of herbalists, voodoo priests, and other traditional African-American healers in Chicago, the home—ironically enough—of the American Medical Association.

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coast just weeks after my family and I moved to Mississippi, and the many disturbing news depictions of African-Americans from New Orleans provided a ready-made research project that has become the impetus for several content analyses. Since then my research agenda has broadened to span several projects on race, media, and/or politics. With colleagues in the UM Critical Race Studies Group I am collecting online diaries of students’ everyday racial experiences, (current UM students can enroll here: and am collaborating in an interdisciplinary analysis of the February 2014 vandalism of the James Meredith statue on campus. I am interviewing African-American members of the Tea Party to understand why they feel more comfortable aligning with white conservatives than with most African-Americans, and I’m studying how abrupt policy reversals after the 2008 presidential election led Republicans to reject proposals they had championed under previous administrations. Finally, with Dr. Willa Johnson I am analyzing why a leading American newsmagazine rejected an early account of prewar Holocaust violence in Europe. Dr. Johnson and I are also studying the role of American journalists in investigating prison camps during the Holocaust.



2011     Johnson, Kirk A., Mark Dolan, and John Sonnett.  “Speaking of Looting:  An Analysis of Racial Propaganda in National Television Coverage of Hurricane Katrina,”  The Howard Journal of Communications, 21:  1-17.

2010    Johnson, Kirk A., John Sonnett, Mark Dolan, Randi Reppen, and Laura Johnson.  “Interjournalistic Discourse about African-Americans in Television News Coverage of Hurricane Katrina,” Discourse & Communication, 4(3):  243-262.

2009    Dolan, Mark, John Sonnett, and Kirk A. Johnson.  “Katrina Coverage in Black Newspapers Critical of Government, Mainstream Media,”  Newspaper Research Journal 30(1):  34-42.

2008    Johnson, Kirk A. and Dixon, Travis L. “Change and the Illusion of Change: Evolving Portrayals of Crime News and Blacks in a Major Market,” Howard Journal of Communications, 19: 1-19.

2004    Johnson, Kirk A.  “Atrocity and Atonement: One City’s Changing News Portrayals of
African-Americans,” in Clint Wilson II and Felix Gutierrez, eds., A Multicultural Media Reader (Sage)

2002    Johnson, Kirk A.  “Modern Doctors and Traditional Black Patients: Bridging a Treacherous Divide,” Annals of Behavioral Science and Medical Education 8(1): 21- 27.

1991    Johnson, Kirk A.  “Objective News and Other Myths: The Poisoning of Young Black Minds,” Journal of Negro Education 60(3): 328-41.


Introduction to Sociology (SOC 101)

The African-American Experience I (AAS 201)

The African-American Experience II (AAS 202)

African-Americans and the Judicial System (AAS 302)

Race and Ethnicity (AAS/SOC 413)

Topics in African-American Studies (African-Americans and the News, AAS 350)

Senior Seminar in African-American Studies (AAS 480)

Sociology of Health Disparities (Graduate Seminar, SOC 552)