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Cover image of 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.

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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.

Jim Crow’s Killers

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For every civil rights martyr like Emmett Till, there were many other Black Americans who were brutalized or killed by racist violence in the early 20th century and remain largely unknown. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Professor Margaret Burnham, author of By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners. This new book unravels many of the lesser known stories of racist violence, the perpetrators, victims, and survivors. It’s also offering descendants of victims a platform, and an opportunity to fill in the blanks of their family history.


Guest: Professor Margaret Burnham, author of By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners


Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

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Oct 28 2022

25mins

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We Won’t Black Down

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In 2020, the Black vote proved critical for Joe Biden in key states, and helped win the Senate for the Democrats. But in the years since, Republican leaders have pushed through laws aimed at discouraging and diluting the power of the Black vote. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson speaks with Cliff Albright, executive director of the Black Voters Matter Fund, about why fighting for ballot access remains essential, even in the face of violence. 


Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.


Thanks Avast.com! Learn more about Avast One at Avast.com

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Oct 21 2022

33mins

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How Tech Can Help—or Harm—Racial Justice

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From Ferguson to Minneapolis, protests against racist policing have been catalyzed by videos of the brutality being spread on social media. On today’s A Word, Jason Johnson sits down with Dr. Ruha Benjamin to talk about her book, Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want, and where social sciences and technology intersect. 


Guest: Ruha Benjamin


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

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Oct 14 2022

30mins

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Bleeding Heart on the Bayou

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The new Interview With the Vampire television series is giving life to a whole new generation of fans who love the human monsters created by the late Anne Rice. On today’s episode of A Word, actor Jacob Anderson talks with Jason Johnson about his role as the reimagined blood sucker, and his career as a singer and sci-fi screen star.


Guest: Jacob Anderson


Podcast production by Yanii Evans


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.


Thanks Avast.com! Learn more about Avast One at Avast.com

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Oct 07 2022

24mins

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The Case for Critical Race Theory

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For decades, critical race theory was something discussed almost exclusively by scholars and academics. That was before conservatives turned it into a political football, even though most couldn’t define it properly. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by UCLA Law Professor LaToya Baldwin Clark, a leader of CRT Forward. That’s a project that tracks attacks on CRT, and works to reframe the public policy discussion around it. She and her colleagues say CRT could play a vital role in preparing American students to live cooperatively in our increasingly diverse nation.


Guest: UCLA Law Professor LaToya Baldwin Clark

Podcast production by Yanii Evans

You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 30 2022

26mins

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The Kids are Alright

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The growing racial diversity in American public schools is often framed as a challenge. In the new documentary Defining US: Children at the Crossroads of Change, veteran educator Paul Forbes focuses on the hard work of understanding how structural racism affects schools. The film spotlights success stories among “at risk” students of color, and the dedicated teachers who are making the system work for them. On today’s episode of A Word, Paul Forbes joins Jason Johnson to talk about Defining US, and the broader fight for racial equity in education. 


Guest: Paul Forbes, executive producer of Defining US: Children at the Crossroads of Change


Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola.

You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 23 2022

32mins

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Teaching While Black

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The student body of America’s public schools is more diverse than ever, with a solid majority of children of color. But the teacher corp doesn’t reflect that diversity. Fewer than a quarter of American teachers are non-white, and fewer than 10 percent of teachers are Black. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by former U.S. Secretary of Education John King about what’s driving Black teachers from the classroom, and the efforts to bring more young teachers in.


Guest: John King, former Secretary of Education and current president of The Education Trust


Podcast production by Yanii Evans


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 16 2022

29mins

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Save the Children

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Over the last two decades, suicide among Black youth has surged to crisis levels. And many schools, doctors and parents are unprepared to recognize the signs early enough to stop a tragedy. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Simon to discuss the issue. Dr. Simon is also the Chief Behavioral Health Officer for the city of Boston, and a leading voice in preventing suicides among African American children.  


Guest: Dr. Kevin Simon, Chief Behavioral Health Officer for the city of Boston


Podcast production by Yanii Evans


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 09 2022

32mins

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A Dream Defaulted: Black College Debt

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While political conservatives slammed it as wasteful, President Biden’s student debt plan was greeted with relief by many borrowers. But questions remain about whether it goes far enough to help most of the Black students burdened by student loans. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson discusses the issue with Professor Fenaba Addo, co-author of A Dream Defaulted: The Student Loan Crisis Among Black Borrowers.


Guest: UNC Professor Fenaba Addo, co-author of A Dream Defaulted: The Student Loan Crisis Among Black Borrowers


Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 02 2022

20mins

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Ballers and Shot Callers

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Are you ready for some football! After decades of being kept out of the quarterback position, more Black quarterbacks are creating success and finding stardom in the NFL. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by ESPN’s Jason Reid, author of “Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America.” They discuss how the business and politics of race have changed for football’s most sought after players, and what challenges remain for Black quarterbacks.


Guest: Sports writer Jason Reid, author of “Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America”


Podcast production by Yanii Evans


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 26 2022

31mins

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Black Wombs Matter

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The U.S. has some of the worst maternal mortality rates in the industrialized world. And African Americans are three times more likely to die in childbirth than whites. The documentary Aftershock focuses on how the healthcare system is failing Black mothers at the most vulnerable time of their lives, and how their families are fighting to change that. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson speaks with the film’s co-director and co-producer Tonya Lewis Lee about the history of the crisis and the movement to solve it.


Aftershock is currently streaming on Hulu.


Guest: Tonya Lewis Lee


Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 19 2022

26mins

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Designing Wakanda

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premieres in theaters this November. The franchise has provided a showcase for African Americans across the entertainment industry, including those behind the scenes. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson speaks with one of those rising creatives, conceptual artist Phillip Boutte Jr. Boutte left an acting career for film design, working on several sci-fi blockbusters. They discuss how Black Panther has helped change the dynamic for African American film professionals who had struggled to get a foothold in Hollywood.


Guest: Production designer Phillip Boutte Jr., co-founder of 9B Collective, the first Black owned conceptual artist incubator in the industry.


Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola.

You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 12 2022

26mins

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Full-Court Fighter

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NBA star Bill Russell, the first Black American to coach a major-league sports team, died this week. His playing earned him 11 championships. His activism won him respect in the Black community, but the hatred of many white fans, and surveillance from the FBI during the civil rights era. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by sports journalist Howard Bryant to discuss Russell’s legacy, on and off the court.


Guest: Veteran sports journalist Howard Bryant


Podcast production by Eric Aaron


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 05 2022

36mins

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The Third COVID Summer

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People are back in the office; schools are planning full classes in the fall; masks are seen less and less frequently. It’s the third COVID summer, but the latest variant of the virus is causing another surge in infection rates and hospitalizations. What do we need to do to protect ourselves now? And how can we be prepared for monkeypox, and the next pandemic?

Guest: Dr. Ebony Hilton, practicing physician, and a frequent medical analyst for MSNBC.

Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola

You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 29 2022

21mins

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Hip Hop McCarthyism?

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In Georgia, award-winning hip hop artist Young Thug and rapper Gunna are awaiting trial on multiple charges, and prosecutors used some of their lyrics in their indictment. Is that fair game, or an attack on free speech? On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by ACLU attorney Stephanie Willis to talk about the broader implications of the case, and ways that artists are learning to protect themselves.


Guest: Attorney Stephanie Willis


Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 22 2022

19mins

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They Want to Kill Americans

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This week’s January 6th congressional hearings offered an in-depth look at the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and other violent extremist groups that organized the insurrection. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson discusses the issues with counter terrorism expert Malcolm Nance, who has spent years chronicling the rise of white supremacist and other American political extremist movements. His new book is “They Want to Kill Americans: The Militias, Terrorists, and Deranged Ideology of the Trump Insurgency.”  


Guest: Analyst Malcolm Nance


Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 15 2022

23mins

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Back to Black Colleges?

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While the vast majority of African American students attend predominantly white institutions –or PWIs– for college, many Black scholars are giving historically Black colleges and universities a second look. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson discusses the issue with Michelle Purdy, an associate professor of education at Washington University at St. Louis. She has studied the intersection of race and education, and is also the author of “Transforming the Elite: Black Students and the Desegregation of Private Schools.” 


Guest: Professor Michelle Purdy


Podcast production by Eric Aaron


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 08 2022

34mins

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No Choice: Fighting for Abortion Rights

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Activists and abortion rights supporters are trying building a movement in the post-Roe v. Wade era. An empowered conservative court, a potential digital dragnet, and an unfocused Democratic response is making that complicated. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by legal analyst Imani Gandy, who explains why –despite the setback– she feels energized and hopeful about this moment.


Guest: Legal analyst Imani Gandy, co-host of the Boom! Lawyered podcast


Podcast production by Eric Aaron

You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 01 2022

33mins

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Full Court Stress

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With the Golden State Warriors wrapping up another championship, NBA players are settling in for the off-season when many will be working on physical fitness and strength. But more teams are recognizing that mental fitness –especially for a league full of young Black men– is just as important. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Corey Yeager, a life coach and psychotherapist for NBA’s Detroit Pistons. They discuss how Black athletes are dealing with the mental challenges of the pandemic, the racial reckoning, and other political issues, on top of the pressure to perform on the court.


Guest: Corey Yeager, psychotherapist, life coach and author of the forthcoming book “How Am I Doing?: 40 Conversations to Have with Yourself.” 


Podcast production by Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jun 24 2022

25mins

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Black Gay Pride and Prejudice

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*This will be a frank discussion about homophobia, and our guest will talk about his experience being called an anti-gay slur.*


This LGBTQ Pride Month has been marred by a rash of anti-gay and anti-trans laws, and some groups plotting physical attacks at Pride events. For Black members of the community, racism has added even more tension to this year’s Pride. On today’s episode of A Word, Jason Johnson is joined by Clay Cane, author of Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race. They discuss how anti-Black and anti-gay violence is affecting Pride this year, as well as concerns about ongoing homophobia among African Americans, and racism within the LGBTQ movement.


Guest: Clay Cane, host of SiriusXM’s The Clay Cane Show


Podcast production by Eric Aaron


You can skip all the ads in A Word by joining Slate Plus. Sign up now at slate.com/awordplus for just $1 for your first month.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jun 17 2022

35mins

Play