Other Publications

Below is a list of publications from 2021-2022. To see Dr. Johnson's complete CV, please click here


Communicating Change in Chaotic Times: Toward a Maatian Understanding of Civility. The Journal of Dialogic Ethics: Interfaith and Interhuman Perspectives Vol. 1, Number 1 (Spring, 2022) 8-18.

As a field, and especially for those of us who are religious communication scholars, we have addressed notions of civility.  However, much of this grounds itself in a Western understanding of communication and rhetoric. For instance, our understanding of ethics, morality, good judgment, civility, and the like spring from our readings of Aristotle, Plato, and others in the classical Western tradition of our field. Only recently has there been an effort to draw from non-Western, non-European writings and scholarship. I argue that the ethical dilemma for our time is as follows: How do we communicate with people who are not telling the truth? How do we form community with people who are living and perpetuating a lie? What do civility, morality, and justice look like amid incivility, immorality, and injustice? How are harmony, balance, reciprocity, and order maintained amid disharmony, imbalance, and disorder? In this essay, I suggest that an understanding of the Africana communication paradigm grounded in Maat would be helpful when addressing and discussing conceptions of civil communication. Using the January 6, 2021 insurrection and the continued fallout from the riot at the United States Capitol as a case study, I call for a civility grounded in an ethical and moral presentation and articulation of a Maatian understanding of truth.

Read the essay here.

(with Damariye L. Smith) Creating Purpose, Power, and Passion: Sister Souljah and the Rhetoric of Hip Hop. Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric. Vol. 12, No. 2, (2022), 45-51

This article introduces a special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric addressing the rhetoric of Hip Hop. The essays that follow address a wide range of salient issues, showcasing both how scholars of rhetoric contribute to a richer understanding of Hip Hop and rhetoric and how Hip Hop helps to shape our understanding of rhetoric.

Read the essay here.

My Sanctified Imagination: Carter G. Woodson and a Speculative (Rhetorical) History of African American Public Address, 1925-1960. Rhetoric and Public Affairs. Vol. 24, No. 1-2 (Spring/Summer 2021), pp. 15-50

In 1925, Herbert Wichelns published The Literary Criticism of Oratory. By many accounts, the essay would become the founding document of the academic study of rhetoric and public address. However, in that same year, historian Carter G. Woodson published Negro Orators and Their Orations, which focused on the study of the African American oratorical tradition. In this essay, by way of speculative history and using my sanctified imagination, I wonder what an alternative or speculative history would look like if we can conceive Woodson as challenging the dominant (exclusively white) notions of public address and rhetorical praxis. By paying particular attention to Woodson’s introduction in Negro Orators and Their Orations, I submit that not only would we have been introduced to the richness and power of the African American public address tradition earlier but, more importantly, who we start to see as scholars and what we call scholarship would be different as well.

Read the essay here.


“To Wake Up the Latent Powers”: Henry McNeal Turner and the Legacy of the Israel AME Lyceum. Reframing Rhetorical History: Cases, Theories, and Methodologies. University of Alabama Press, Kathleen J. Turner and Jason Edward Black, eds. (2022), 151-171   

In this essay, I bring attention to this particular institution—the Israel AME Lyceum—and its founder, Henry McNeal Turner. Instead of a traditional rhetorical history where I would “offer insights that are central to the study of communication and unavailable through other approaches,” this is more of a recovery project of a rhetorical institution. While I attempt to engage in this recovery project, I do it with the understanding that I have limited access to the history of this institution. Although we know that the Israel AME Lyceum existed, like many “absent archives” there is no written history of the organization. Therefore, there are no significant studies about the institution, and thus, what was said, and how it was said; full extant speeches and debates are lost to history. I find myself echoing Melbourne Cummings as she notes in her essay on the problems of researching Black rhetoric: “some of the greatest and most representative speeches were made without even a partial manuscript that could attest to the speaker's subject, the speech's motivational appeal, [and] what part it or the speaker played in influencing action or other people.” While sources for the study of African American rhetoric and public address have become more available since Cummings' writing in 1972, a recovery project like this one reminds us that there is still much discovery left to do.

Read the chapter here.

“Further Silence Upon Our Part Would be an Outrage”: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the Colored Convention Movement” in, The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century Gabrielle Foreman, Jim Casey, and Sarah Lynn Patterson (eds). Duke University Press, 2021

In this chapter, I examine Turner’s role in the colored convention movement. As I demonstrate, Turner had always been part of and played significant roles in national, state, and local conventions. The 1893 national colored convention held in Cincinnati from November 28 to December 2 is one of the very last, if not the last, to claim that title; it is the focus of the essay. I examine Turner’s role as the president of the convention, analyze his keynote address, and posit why Turner believed that a national colored convention would be the best medium to again advocate for emigration.

Confrontational and Intersectional Rhetoric: Black Lives Matter and the Shutdown of the Hernando De Soto (I-40) Bridge,” in The Routledge Handbook of the Rhetoric of Social Movements. Nathan Crick ed. Routledge, 2021

This chapter applies Robert S. Cathcart’s rhetorical form of confrontation and Darrel EnckWanzer’s concept of intersectional rhetoric to Black Lives Matter as a social movement. I argue that Black Lives Matter as a social movement is best understood as a confrontational and intersectional movement that squarely fits within the Black Liberationist tradition. This confrontational/intersectional rhetoric, I argue follows the mandate of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who, in the last year of his life, called for this type of action. 

In the second part of the chapter, I examine the action on the bridge. I do this in two different ways. First, by way of reviewing media accounts of the direct social action, I attempt to tell a narrative of what happened that evening. Second, drawing from the Facebook Live video I took, through an autoethnographic framework, I examine the march that occurred after protesters left the bridge. Not covered by the media as much as the bridge shut down, I argue that the march is important to share because, it symbolized for most protesters, a reclamation of agency. In short, many people felt as if “they did something that night.” They felt empowered. Many celebrated the fact that the protest was “peaceful” in that police did not arrest anyone, but more importantly, police did not kill anyone that night either. I close the chapter by sharing some results of the bridge protest and reflections on Black Lives Matter as a social movement. 

Read the chapter here

(with Natonya Litsach) "Women, Step Forward!" Doing Rhetorical Historiography by Exploring Womanist Leadership in the AME Church in Womanist Ethical Rhetoric: A Call for Liberation and Social Justice in Turbulent Times. Annette Madlock Gatison and Cerise Glenn-Manigault (eds). Lexington Books, 2021

In a denomination with two female bishops, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church seems to be progressive in the trajectory of women's roles in the Church. However, there is still more work to do as women's voices are continuously bombarded, overlooked, or even pushed out of the conversation. With this in mind, how can women work to advance their position in the denomination? While some men, such as Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, fought for the inclusion of women in every aspect of the leadership of the AME Church, the seeds of inclusion were planted, watered, and harvested by the women of the denomination. This chapter will focus on historical examples of women pushing forth as rhetors in the AME Church—Jarena Lee, Sarah (Sallie) Ann Copeland Hughes, Hallie Quinn Brown, and Jamye Coleman Williams.

Read the essay here.


Creating Purpose, Power, and Passion: Understanding the Rhetoric of Hip Hop. Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric (2022)

Read the issue here.