Newswise — Reporters working on stories about the death of Michael Jackson and the impact he had on popular culture should consider Lester Spence, an assistant professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University.

As a scholar of race in popular culture, Spence, who is African American, can discuss Jackson's career, his contributions as a musician and his impact on the discussion of race in America.

"Pundits, scholars, and regular citizens have already begun to pore over Michael Jackson's life and legacy," Spence said. "He singlehandedly brought the record industry from the brink of financial ruin, and was perhaps the first artist to recognize the particular power of the music video (making a small channel devoted to music videos into the conglomerate we now know as MTV). Further, even as African Americans criticized him as not being 'black enough' given his numerous plastic surgeries, he was the first to depict Ancient Egyptians as 'black' in the televisual arts. A tragic figure, but one that looms large over the modern moment."

An active source for stories about black politics, public opinion and political behavior, Spence has appeared regularly on National Public Radio, has served as a source for news stories and offered commentary in such media outlets as the Washington Post, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, and His book, Stare in the Darkness: Rap, Hip-hop, and Black Politics, will be published in August 2010. Spence is also an active blogger. More information about his projects can be found at his Web site,

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