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Frederick Douglass Medal to be presented to Northwestern’s dean of communication

March 28, 2022

E. Patrick Johnson is recognized for his contributions to engaged scholarship and public performance.

E. Patrick Johnson.

E. Patrick Johnson. (Justin Barbin Photography)

University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf will present the Frederick Douglass Medal during a ceremony on March 31 to E. Patrick Johnson, dean of the School of Communication at Northwestern University and the Annenberg University Professor.

The honor recognizes Johnson’s scholarship and community engagement in the field of Black studies. He was nominated by Jeffrey McCune Jr., an associate professor of African American literature and culture at Rochester and the director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies, who wrote in his letter of nomination, “Professor Johnson’s impact on the field of Black studies, Black sexuality studies, and performance studies is unmatched.”

Johnson is the award-winning author of two books—Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity (Duke University Press, 2003) and Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South—An Oral History (University of North Carolina Press, 2008)—as well as an essayist and public performer. He is also the founder and director of Black Arts Initiative at Northwestern, a multicultural collaboration of Black artists and scholars.

His performance work has earned him several awards, including the Leslie Irene Coger Award for Outstanding Contributions to Performance from the National Communication Association, the Bert Williams Award for Best Solo Performance from the Chicago Black Theater Alliance, and the René Castillo Otto Award for Political Theater.

Frederick Douglass Medal Ceremony

Thursday, March 31
3:30 p.m.
Rush Rhees Library, Hawkins-Carlson Room
More event details

In addition, Johnson toured more than 100 colleges for a staged reading of his book Sweet Tea.

The Frederick Douglass Medal is a joint initiative of the Office of the President and the Frederick Douglass Institute established in 2008 to honor individuals of outstanding achievement whose scholarship and community engagement honor the legacy of Frederick Douglass. Past recipients include the late David Kearns, CEO of Xerox and deputy secretary of the United States Department of Education, and Kenneth B. Morris, cofounder and president of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass.

The March 31 ceremony takes place in the Hawkins-Carlson Room in the Rush Rhees Library.

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