University of Mississippi

Kirk A. Johnson

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

Office Hours: By appointment

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.



2016 Harris, B.H., Dellinger, K., Jackson, J.T., Johnson, K.A., Skipper, J., Sonnett, J., Thomas, J.T. and the Critical Race Studies Group. “The Symbolic Lynching of James Meredith: A Visual Analysis and Collective Counter Narrative to Racial Dominance,” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 216 (January): 1-16.

2016 Johnson, W.M. and Johnson, K.A. “Karl Schwesig’s Schlegelkeller: Anatomy of a Rejection of Prewar Violence at LIFE magazine.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society. Forthcoming; published online on June 12.

2015 Sonnett, J., Johnson, K.A., and Dolan, M.K. “Implicit Racial Cues in Television News: Visual Framing and Verbal Narratives after Hurricane Katrina. Sociological Forum 30 (2): 328-347.

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)