Steven Thrasher, ISGMH faculty member and inaugural Daniel H. Renberg chair of social justice in reporting at Northwestern’s Medill School, has been chosen as a finalist for the American Studies Association’s 2019 Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize for his dissertation “Infectious Blackness: ‘Tiger Mandingo,’ Racial Compromise in Missouri, and Criminalized HIV/AIDS in America.” It will be honored at the ASA’s Annual Meeting in Honolulu, Hawai’i on November 7, 2019.
Thrasher’s dissertation research helped facilitate Michael Johnson’s release from prison 25 years ahead of his original sentence, which Thrasher reported on for BuzzFeed and which the New York Times reported on in July of 2019. Michael Johnson, who was sentenced to an unprecedented 30.5 years for failing to disclose his HIV status to his sexual partners, was released in June this year after an appeals court condemned his original trial as “fundamentally unfair.”
The American Studies Association committee expressed appreciation for Thrasher’s work, including his deep engagement with journalistic methods and writing, racial analysis, and case study approach to Michael Johnson.
The committee noted that ““Infectious Blackness” is not only timely and urgent; your dissertation makes a critical intervention in the study of HIV/AIDS and discourses of Blackness to reveal the racialized and unequal effects of prevention and healthcare. Your work critically challenges celebrations of the defeat of the AIDS epidemic.”