Darius Johnson selected as graduation speaker for alma mater KCHS

WORTON — Preservationist-historian-storyteller Darius Johnson, a 2011 graduate of Kent County High School, will deliver the commencement address at his alma mater on Friday morning, May 31.

By unanimous vote at its meeting Monday, May 6, the Kent County Board of Education gave the proverbial thumbs-up.

KCHS Principal Kris Hemstetter told the school board that the members of the Class of 2024 “would like to officially invite” Johnson to be their graduation speaker, and she was seeking board approval.

Johnson is currently on staff at Washington College, serving as the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience Digital Justice Fellow.

Through his work at the Starr Center, he collaborates with faculty, staff, students and community members to develop the next phase of Chesapeake Heartland: An African American Humanities Project and to expand the project’s digital archive through collaborative digital repatriation partnerships with the Maryland State Archives, Maryland Center for History and Culture, and the American Antiquarian Society.

Johnson’s position as the Starr Center’s Digital Justice Fellow is funded with a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. This grant program is designed to promote and provide resources for projects at various stages of development that diversify the digital domain, advance justice and equity in digital scholarly practice, and/or contribute to public understanding of racial and social justice issues.

Johnson attended Washington College as the recipient of a Vincent Hynson Scholarship, and graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in business management.

Always appreciative of his roots, Johnson prioritizes investing in the people and places that invested in him.

He currently serves on the Washington College Alumni Board and he regularly supports the Washington College Business Department as a speaker to current and prospective students.

He also serves on the board of directors of the Chesapeake College Foundation (as vice president) and the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. Just last month, he was appointed to the Maryland Historical Trust’s board of trustees.

According to the biography that Principal Hemstetter provided to the Kent County Board of Education, Johnson is influenced by diverse work experiences across affordable housing, construction, land conservation/land use, fundraising, workforce development and business analytics.

He’s been named an African American Trailblazer by Kent County’s Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Committee.

For his research interests, he was named a Built Environment Scholar and Community Engagement Scholar by Goucher College, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in historic preservation.

He also has been named a Mildred Colodny Diversity Scholar by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program.

One of Johnson’s favorite projects is “Homecoming: Kent County,” a research project completed for his 2020-21 Community Curation Fellowship with Chesapeake Heartland. Johnson conducted oral history interviews of family members and curated 60 photos that reflected rural Black life in Kent County through positive themes such as love, labor and celebration.

He’s continued to build on this work throughout his graduate studies.

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