A Word … with Jason Johnson

A Word … with Jason Johnson

America doesn’t need another conversation about race. At least, not the kind we’ve been having ... the ones that are sparked by a crisis and move quickly from shock, to empty promises, to forgetting. No. What America needs are REAL conversations about race … ones that shine a light on the facts, the history, and the reality of how race plays out in our politics and society. That’s what Slate offers each week on A Word With Jason Johnson. A veteran political commentator, Johnson will bring his incisive wit to thoughtful discussions with leaders, journalists and other change-makers who will tell the truth about America’s challenges around race, and ideas on the way forward.


June 2, 2023 26 mins
Every family has secrets. As a girl, Leta McCollough Seletzky learned that her father, Marrell McCollough– was on the scene of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. But it would be years before she learned that he was there as a spy for the Memphis police, who wanted information on King’s local allies. On today’s episode of A Word, she speaks with Jason Johnson about her father’s story, captured in her new book, The Kneeling Man:...
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The murder of George Floyd prompted a number of American colleges and universities to reckon with their historic roles in slavery. Three years later, many institutions have abandoned those efforts. One that’s still going strong is the Hard Histories Project at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by historian Martha Jones, the director of that effort. The scholars associated w...
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Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925, and he remains one of the most polarizing figures of the civil rights movement. An enduring myth from that era is that he and Martin Luther King Jr. were diametrically opposed politically. But the recent revelation that a quote where King condemned Malcolm X was false has prompted a wider reconsideration of his beliefs and legacy. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by historia...
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May 12, 2023 35 mins
The persistent stereotype that role-playing, tabletop game players are overwhelmingly white is rooted in race, housing, and history. The suburban homes where people could dedicate a surface to a sprawling, multiplayer board game used to be almost exclusively white. And the knights, wizards, and other fantastic creatures in these games were closely tied to European mythology. But a more diverse world of game playing is rising, with ...
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May 5, 2023 21 mins
Even classical art can be revolutionary. That was true for violinist Joseph Bologne. He was a biracial musical prodigy who worked and charmed his way into the center of 18th-century French society. But the new film “Chevalier” shows how even his genius couldn’t save him from the poisonous combination of bias and envy. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by actor Kelvin Harrison Jr., star of “Chevalier.” They talk ...
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April 28, 2023 33 mins
April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance month, and might be the only time of year when many Americans think about neurodiversity. But for many families, receiving an autism diagnosis for a child can set off an all-consuming search for doctors, therapists, and education that can work for their kids. That’s more complicated for African-American families, who have to overcome systemic racism in schools and health care to get the righ...
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April 21, 2023 27 mins
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the African American community has a complicated relationship with corporal punishment of kids. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Stacey Patton, a writer, child abuse survivor, and the author of Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America. She debunks myths about spanking, including the idea that physical discipline of children has roots in Africa....
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April 14, 2023 24 mins
The deadline for filing taxes this year is April 18th, and tax season brings on anxiety in lots of Americans. For Black folks, a lack of intergenerational wealth often means fewer contacts and networks that can offer guidance on taxes. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Washington Post personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary to talk about some of the tax challenges that disproportionately affect the Bla...
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April 7, 2023 27 mins
Folklorist and Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston made her hometown of Eatonville, Florida famous in her writing, including her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. But her fame hasn’t saved the town from the pressures that many African American communities have endured: a population fighting poverty, government indifference, and developers that want to scoop up the land to build housing that current residents can’t afford...
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March 31, 2023 23 mins
Baltimore is one of many aging American cities that is plagued with both a lack of affordable housing, and a surplus of vacant homes. But a local non-profit is addressing both those issues, and teaching community members to rebuild their neighborhoods one house at a time. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Shelley Halstead, who founded Black Women Build in Baltimore.  Guest: Shelley Halstead, founder of Black...
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March 24, 2023 31 mins
For many people of faith, Holy Week brings the most sacred days of the year. But in 1968, that season was marred by the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., and the violent unrest and riots that followed. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Vann Newkirk II. He’s a senior editor for The Atlantic, and the host of its Holy Week podcast, which examines this moment in history. They discuss the political and social forc...
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March 17, 2023 26 mins
For decades, there has been a stigma attached to remaining unmarried and childless in the Black community, particularly for women. But a growing part of the Black middle class is single, childfree adults. Does the trend threaten the future of the Black family, or is it time to recognize a different model for family life? On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by sociologist Kris Marsh, author of “The Love Jones Cohor...
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March 10, 2023 32 mins
The Scream franchise returns to theaters this weekend. Since it first debuted in 1996, the racial dynamics of horror films have evolved. And for the first time in generations of scary movies, African American characters are surviving, killing the monsters, or even slaying as horror villains themselves. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Mark Harris, the co-author of The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinem...
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March 3, 2023 31 mins
The music of De La Soul is finally available on streaming. When they released their debut album “3 Feet High and Rising” in 1989, the group expanded the idea of what hip hop was and who it was for. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by rapper, composer, and producer Don Will to discuss De La Soul’s impact, endurance, and what a new generation of hip hop fans can learn from them.  Guest: Donwill, host of “The Alm...
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February 24, 2023 22 mins
Courtney and Nicole Mallery claim that their dream of ranching in Colorado has become a nightmare because of racist neighbors and hostile police. Their case grabbed national attention after videos of Courtney Mallery’s arrest went viral. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Ezekiel Walker of The Black Wall Street Times, who is covering the case. They talk about the controversy surrounding the Freedom Acres Ranch...
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February 17, 2023 32 mins
Awards season can be a frustrating moment for Black writers in Hollywood, when even their most successful shows and films are frequently overlooked. Rodney Barnes has built a thriving career by telling stories of Black life, from “Everybody Hates Chris,” to “The Boondocks,” to “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.” On today’s episode of A Word, he joins Jason Johnson to discuss the challenges and rewards of his rise as a s...
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February 10, 2023 29 mins
For many Americans, the “Green Book” is an Oscar-winning film. But for generations of Black Americans, it served as a literal map for traveling through an often hostile and hateful country, finding safety and businesses that would serve us. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by writer and financial educator Alvin Hall. He’s the author of Driving the Green Book: A Road Trip Through the Living History of Black Resi...
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February 3, 2023 27 mins
Days before footage of the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols was made public, protests disrupted downtown Atlanta. The demonstrations there came in response to law enforcement shooting protestor Manuel Teran to death at the controversial site of a future police training facility. The area has come to be known as “Cop City,” and on today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by attorney and State President of the Georgia N...
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January 27, 2023 32 mins
Five former Memphis police officers are charged with second degree murder in the death of Tyre Nichols. Footage of them reportedly beating Nichols after a traffic stop is set to be released to the public on Friday evening. Nichols’ death came just days after English teacher Keenan Anderson was tazed repeatedly by LAPD officers, who were responding to a traffic incident. Anderson died hours later.  These deaths, and an increase in ...
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January 20, 2023 29 mins
Headlines suggest that Haiti could be on the verge of collapse, with gangs controlling its streets, the economy at a standstill, and political leaders fearing for their lives. But while international observers decry it as a “failed nation,” Haiti’s path to success has been consistently blocked since its successful slave rebelion in 1804. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Professor Leslie Alexander, author “Fe...
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