Some might say my career is confused; I call it unconventional. Since crafting my own undergraduate major (in environmental science), I’ve worked as an environmental policy specialist at EPA, 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 politics. In 2016, I worked with colleagues in the UM Critical Race Studies Group to prepare an interdisciplinary analysis of the February 2014 vandalism of the James Meredith statue on campus. In another project, my colleagues and I analyzed hundreds of online diaries detailing UM undergraduates’ racial, ethnic, and other marginalizing experiences that social scientists call microaggressions. I’ve also written a book based on interviews of African-American supporters of the Tea Party to understand why some African Americans felt more comfortable aligning with white conservatives than with most African-Americans after President Obama’s historic 2008 election. Finally, Dr. Willa Johnson and I analyzed 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.
2019 Johnson, Kirk A. African American Tea Party Supporters: Explaining a Political Paradox.
Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
2019. Johnson, K.A., Johnson, W.M., Thomas, J.M., Green, J.J. “Microaggressions and Spatial Variation on a
Southern University Campus: Where Are the Safe Spaces for Vulnerable Students?” Social Problems.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spz055
2016. Barbara H. Combs, Kirsten Dellinger, Jeffrey T. Jackson, Kirk A. Johnson, Willa M. Johnson,
Jodi Skipper, John Sonnett, James M. Thomas, and Critical Race Studies Group. “The Symbolic
Lynching of James Meredith: A Visual Analysis and Collective Counter Narrative to Racial
Domination.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 2 (3): 338-353. doi:10.1177/2332649215626937
2016. Willa M. Johnson & Kirk A. Johnson. “Karl Schwesig’s Schlegelkeller: Anatomy of a Rejection
of Prewar Violence at LIFE magazine.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society.
2015. John Sonnett, Kirk A. Johnson, and Mark K. Dolan. “Priming Implicit Racism in Television
News: Visual and Verbal Limitations on Diversity.” Sociological Forum 30 (2): 328-347.
2011. Johnson, Kirk A., Mark K. 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. doi:10.1080/10646175.2011.590404
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. doi:10.1177/1750481310373214
2009. Mark Dolan, John Sonnett, and Kirk A. Johnson. “Katrina Coverage in Black Newspapers Critical
of Government, Mainstream Media.” Newspaper Research Journal 30 (1): 34-42.
2008. Kirk A. Johnson & Travis L. Dixon. “Change and the Illusion of Change: Evolving Portrayals of
Crime News and Blacks in a Major Market.” Howard Journal of Communications 19: 1-19.